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Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Giuliano Ferretti's edition of the letters of Fortin de la Hoguette

Reviewed in 1997

Fortin de la Hoguette was a minor nobleman who served in the army (Ferretti refers to a biography by him of Fortin, which I must order for myself and for the J.H.U. Library) under one or another of Richelieu's military relatives commanding out in the West, in the relief of the Island of Ré, the Siege of La Rochelle, and the campaign in Northern Italy in 1629-30. One might ask whether he was related to the financier Fortin whom Françoise Bayard mentions in her Monde des Financiers, but that is not what we are looking at here. Marrying Louise de Péréfixe in l64l placed him closer still to full membership in Richelieu's client system, if not quite his household, since Louise's brother, Hardouin, was maître de chambre for the Cardinal.

 Richelieu's death certainly affected Fortin's career—he spent years on his Charentais estate carefully cultivating his remote connections with all the ‘great'—to keep his income and prepare for bringing his children forward in to the world. At some point Fortin decided to compete for appointment as preceptor to the young Louis XIV, counting on his considerable learning and reputation for religious orthodoxy to sustain connections through Hardouin, who landed the post. La Mother le Vayer, much too politically sensitive to think he had the post in the bag, found himself momentarily out when Hardouin de Péréfixe got the appointment, but then was compensated by receiving the preceptorate to Philippe. Mazarin's fine hand is observable all through these appointments. It seems evident that he would not have appointed both Fortin and Hardouin de Péréfixe to the same princely household. Fortin's presentation piece was, of course, his Catéchisme Royal, a work which received some criticism for its lack of 'modern' theology. Fortin also carved out some sort of special parish with a chapel built at his expense to sustain not only his candidacy for Heaven, but for appointment to a royal household. It failed to help on the latter; evidence on the former is hard to come by.

One of the first interests, then, in these letters, is the psychological and social make-up of someone who would briguer such an appointment. Military service and virtually identical views to Richelieu's on foreign policy questions would certainly have been prerequisites, and here Fortin's credentials were very strong. Hardouin's success in landing the appointment may have partly been the result of Fortin's help in writing his own devotional program for the same appointment.

The letters edited here do not include many references to religious or learned topics, despite their being addressed to the Dupuys. Indeed, the 507 letters published here are mainly about the art of keeping a presence in a learned circle from many miles away. There is gossip about politically and militarily prominent provincials, reports on revolts, and dangers of revolts, and family life, but no real display of learning or intellectual curiosity. Fortin's vision of the political and social environment in which he lived is very interesting, but it makes one wonder just how much clientage lay beneath many correspondences in the republic of letters.

In his Preface Marc Fumaroli rather gleefully notes the antipathy and even hostility of the Dupuy brothers to Richelieu and his policies, and particularly with the war against the Hapsburgs. There is no doubt that as learned jurists and librarians the Dupuys were deeply disturbed by the policies the Cardinal carried out, particularly their arbitrariness and unreserved stridency. Knowing their minds, how could the Dupuys and Richelieu ever really see eye to eye? Only a sense of the grandeur of France, and the need to defend and increase it could account for a common effort at all in numerous quarters of elite French culture after about 1636 or 1637. Hostility to the Cardinal was intense in the Parlement, but the judges behaved pretty much as the Cardinal expected. They lacked a hauteur in their views. Like Guez de Balsac, the Dupuys no doubt perceived Richelieu as a tyrant—a breaker of the customs and laws of the realm, which is exactly what he was! Closely linked to the de Thous, the Dupuys could do nothing but grieve and resist the directions Richelieu had set for the ship of state in years of intense warfare. Did they see the Cardinal's work as fundamentally and permanently altering relations between individuals and institutions in the realm? It is doubtful, especially in a Regency in which royal authority was certainly not very strong. We get glimpses into the continuing difficulties between the government and the de Thou family, especially in 1646.

Fortin was a strong Richelieu supporter and would be very negative about any precipitous effort to make peace in 1646. While lamenting the hardships provoked by the steep rise in taxes, inveighing against tax farmers like everyone else, Fortin nonetheless stood on the side of his patron, and his relations. In the Fronde his views are on the side of order, but he is equivocal here and there, and Ferretti is correct to observe that his understanding of politics was more organic than ideological. Much more work needs to be done before we historians can elucidate just how organic the political seemed to be to most non-juridically or non-theologically trained but informed French in the 1640's.

By 1652 he is ready to kiss Mazarin's feet if he will but bring home a sincere and durable peace (p. 718). It would be interesting to pull together everything Fortin says about authority, for example, in order to discern if he sees in some binary way, and grounded in meanings of words, or in some more organic way where the non-binary permitted all sorts of what an ideologue would think of as contradictions. In 1648 he published a Testament from a father addressed to his children, a superb source for understanding authority, I suspect, in permitting almost Filmer-like inferences, perhaps, on the state. Regarding the Dupuys, Ferretti notes: 'Il y a, dans leur attitude, une divergence, voire une opposition entre leur conception de la monarchie et celle qui s'affirmait au cours du règne de Louis XIII.' (p. 46) I think this is correct, and it prompts us to try to elucidate just what the immense war effort of the 1630's set in motion. One might wonder if Richelieu might not agree. Except for his strict, anti-stoic views on clemency in the cas royaux—admittedly a great sticking point—the Dupuys might also have understood Absolutism as a temporary breach in the institutional fabric of the realm. But could they have abandoned their own history? It had been the jurists who had developed the law of treason grounded on the lex Julia. More immediately, and painfully, there remained the Cinq Mars execution explicitly sought by the Cardinal. The question of young de Thou's guilt might have been one of those subjects that Fortin and the Dupuys chose to avoid in their letters. Not just because of the pain, but because of the possible differences of opinion. We need to learn more about Cinq Mars!

The final big theme to be touched on here is the moving, quite remarkable testimony about the intimacy within the Fortin-Péréfixe household. There are expressions of satisfaction about domestic life, anxiety about his wife's health, fears at moments when she gives birth to their children, and all this expressed to the Dupuys. One has to be very cautious about taking the boundary between the private and public that Montaigne (see my essay about Merlin's book on the importance of the particulier as a special discursive and social space that is neither public nor private, in MLN) works out so strongly as somehow normative for the learned, and or for the members of the republic of letters. Am I now writing to myself? Of course. I may have been the only reader actually concerned with these boundaries! In Fortin there is an intimacy expressed in relief after a child is born, and immense anxiety over a still-birth. Fear of the loss of his wife is shared with the Dupuy. 'Dieu a voulu qu'estant venu voir en passant Monsieur de Rodez, mon filz, que j'amenois avec moy, soit tumbé malade de la petite verolle, si tost que je le verrey hors de danger, je continueray mon chemin et laisserey un valet avec luy pour me l'amener dans un mois. Si Dieu me l'oste, come la chose est possible, peutestre m'en retournerés je chés moy me consoler avec ma femme' (p. 736). Fortin also notes with pleasure the greetings the Dupuys sends to his wife, and the pleasure this gives her.

What would Louis XIV's reign have been like if Fortin, the learned but in no way pedantic, devout, but not Tartuffe-like nobleman had become preceptor to the king? His support for a strong monarchy, firmness when negotiating with the Hapsburgs, hostility toward the tax farmers, and links to the Cabinet Dupuy all make Fortin very much a figure of his time.

Fortin draws general political inferences based on a minimum of fact, also a characteristic of men of his generation. One must sometime try to work on the inferences that could be made about just how a deeply theological, indeed possibly Platonist (through Augustine) turn of mind, could help make very major diplomatic and political decisions grounded on a minimum of fact. The signs counted, and one learned to act and govern accordingly. This was the way Richelieu governed. Not that he did not want facts, no indeed, but he never really seemed to hesitate for lack of facts, because reading the signs in the light of royal and divine authority seemed possible and sufficient. 'Je suis trompé si nos huguenots ne nous baillent bientost un tour de leur mestier. Les anglois pourroient bien estre de la partie.' This was in February 1627. All through the letters there is vision and judgment, letting the reader infer just how deeply involved in every aspect of the politics of the time the Dupuy brothers were. And there is ample evidence here of a deeper understanding and support for Richelieu's foreign policy aims.

Christophe Dupuy, brother of Pierre (1582-1651) brother of Pierre and Jacques, has long been known largely through the 21 letters which Alfred Soman published in his De Thou and the Index (Geneva, Droz, 1972) that Christophe addressed to François-Auguste de Thou, and the 41 selected letters addressed to his brothers between 1636 and 1645 already edited by K.W. and P.J. Wolfe in 1988, in the same series as the volume under review here.

Christophe Dupuy's principal subject in his letters to his librarian brothers is the books that come on the market in Rome. He has lists of books supplied by his brothers of books to look for and buy if not too expensive. He informs his brothers of all the recent publications, largely historical and critical. Devotional works are rarely mentioned. The German book dealer, Herman Schutz, has more books for sale than all the other dealers put together (p. 24). His death prompts envy and reflection about what might come on the market, but soon his shop was open again.

C. Dupuy found a copy of the Antwerp Bible that he believed should be in the royal library, so he made an offer of 100 Roman escus for it without checking first with his brothers. He notes in his letter that while there have been more recent editions, and this fact has reduced its importance for scholars, still: ‘pour son papier, pour l'élégance de l'impression et pour tout ce que l'on sauroit desirer, de sorte que une bibliotheque à laquelle manque un ornement tel que celui la se peut dire veritablement defectueuse' (p. l64f). This was in July 1648; by August 1649 he noted his pleasure in learning that the Bible he had bought had been bound and was now in the library in Paris, just about a year from noting that it was for sale in Rome. There is a brief description of the great de Thou library which Christophe had known before going to Rome (p. 106), and criticism of all the columns in the Mazarin library, that is the one prior to installation in the Collège des Quatre Nations, the one we all know and love. Christophe wanted a view on the whole range of books, on a wall, not interrupted by columns, an interesting comment in that it combines the aesthetic with a sense of force or strength in mass in the shelves of books (all arranged by Naudé!).

There are reports of the revolution in Naples (he uses the word), and of the famine in the Papal States, that is prompting protest and revolt. News from Paris about the Fronde dismays him; he's anti-parlementaire, and notes that 'les Italiens' mistakenly think that the parlement of Paris is as powerful as that of England (p.166). After mentioning that copies of Talon's harangue (the Sept. 7, 1648 harangue, in all probability) is running through the streets of Rome in Italian translation and that the Spanish are calling attention to its importance. He added that he was skeptical about whether the speech had been given as printed, adding: 'elle est hardie et séditieuse, c'est pourquoi il y apparence que l'on y a adjousté ' (p. 144).

Christophe Dupuy learned that Morlot's La Custode de la Reine had arrived in Rome by Jan. 25, 1649, with Cardinal Barbarini showing it to the French ambassador. Hubert Carrier's account of the Morlot Affaire is rightly noted by the editors. It is in Les Mazarinades, Vol. II, p. 340. Dupuy's only remark about the Remonstrance des Trois Estats is that it ought to have better printed!

The references to Cassiano Dal Pozzo are quite numerous but tantalizingly disappointing. The great, learned Barbarini secretary and patron of Poussin is, however, a real presence here. I am sure that not only the editors, but art historians have combed and recombed these and other non- published letters by Dupuy to find out about Cassiano. By contrast, it is interesting to note that G. P. Lomazzo's Tratto dell'arte della pittura, scoltura, et architettura is very rare, but he turned down a copy priced at 4 escus, because it was not fine.

Christophe Dupuy's health is really the only personal aspect in these letters. There are no real references to general family matters, such as inheritances or marriage negotiations. His surprise at seeing what his brothers looked like from portraits sent to him is genuine, and ‘consoling', but he gave them to Dal Pozzo, as his brothers had no doubt intended. He asks for copies for himself, and notes that Bourdelot had also given one to Dal Pozzo. These must be the familiar etchings of the two brothers we all know and love—the ones Comte d'Adhémar de Panat ordered for me from the BN Photographic Service in about 1959 or 1960 and which I am tempted to scan on to this page, but fear it might be illegal to do so.

Christophe, though anti-parlementaire, is pleased to learn of the demolition of the Château Trompette (p. 231), and adds that he thinks all these citadels that dominate cities ought to be torn down. G. Ferretti's notes that Fortin's views on politics are more organicist than ideological, an interesting observation. Just how thin in the French mind were the so-called Absolutist ideas at the time? So what a glorious reading all these letters have been. I hope these remarks will send many other readers to these editions, clearly a labor of love and engagement in scholarship that prompts our awe.

A final note: it would be fun to imagine a dialogue between C. Dupuy and Fortin—especially on the fossilized wood that Dupuy brings up for discussion in 1649. Would the author of the Catéchisme royal, with its not 'new' theology have accepted the claims of Francesco Stelluti about the existence of wood that had turned to stone? Are those in fact Stelluti's claims? From the way C.D. describes the book one can infer an affirmative answer. Curiously, Stelluti does not show up in Rhoda Rappaport's When Geologists were Historians which I plan to read and discuss on our web- site. Dupuy adds: 'Ceux de ce pays qui ont veu ce legno fossile et le lieu où il se trouve conviennent avec le sentiment du Seig. Stelluti que je croi autant credule que M. Naudé est incredule. Ne vous estonnez pas si vous n'avez point eu advis de ce livre plus tost [Stelluti's, not Rappaport's]. Icy les libraires et les imprimeurs sont si miserables et le debit des livres si petit que les auteurs sont obligés de faire eux-mesmes les frais de l'édition de leurs livres dont ils retirent par apres touts les exemplaires de sorte que c'est un hazard si il s'en rencontre par apres chez les libraires' (p. 233).

From a Rome predominately oral and liturgical to a Europe and world founded on reading and printing, we may now be shifting quickly to another world of net communication and scholarly publishing. Sic transit mundi.