This long Musing is subdivided into the following sections, to which you may want to jump:
A glimpse at the French Colony in Rome, 1666-1669
The Dalibert thread (for more on Dalibert, see my separate biography)
The Dassoucy thread
The threads left by the Duke of Chaulnes and H.-H. Servien
Threads left by Frenchmen who resided outside the Farnese:
A. The Longueville thread; B. The Orleanist thread
Festivities at the Farnese Palace: Was "Carpentier" involved?
Dassoucy and Charpentier
Abbé Le Tellier and "Carpentier"
The date and length of Charpentier's stay in Rome can only be deduced. True, a relatively reliable scenario can be constructed from evidence in the Mercure galant and in Titon du Tillet's Parnasse Français, although some of these details are second-hand. (That is to say, the Mercure's statements doubtless mirror tales that Charpentier told the editors, Donneau de Visé and Thomas Corneille, when they were collaborating in the theater; and Titon apparently got his information from Charpentier's nephew, Jacques Edouard.) We can propose with reasonable certainty that Charpentier left Paris in either 1665 or 1666 (after the so-called "Corsican Affair" had been mediated); that he "saw Carissimi frequently" while he was there; that he struck up a friendship with Charles Coypeau, called "Dassoucy"; that having spent "three years" in Rome he returned to France (judging from internal evidence in his autograph manuscripts, this occurred in the fall of 1669); and that Mlle de Guise promptly offered him an "apartment" at the Hôtel de Guise.
That is all we know. There is no evidence from Rome itself! This paucity of evidence has stopped research dead in its tracks, for Rome is such a big and deep lake that the chances of finding a specific minnow are slim indeed. That is not to imply that Charpentier the Roman cannot be found. But to find him, people have to have a vague idea where to look. It is for this reason that I am summarizing my own research and putting it on the web. I hope that researchers like the Michels, who spend the better part of each day thumbing through the "states of souls" (the stati d'anime) that were compiled each Lent looking for artists (and who were so very helpful to Orest and me our first day at the archives of the Vicariato at Saint John Lateran) will recognize some of the names or events I am about to mention. These names and events may also be meaningful to researchers who have been through the specialized studies of artists and musicians in Rome that I have not consulted.
When the scant contemporary evidence about Charpentier is superimposed upon the information about the French colony in Rome that I have gleaned from Dassoucy's poems and from the diplomatic archives at the Quai d'Orsay, several quite plausible working hypotheses begin to emerge. I hope they will not only give us a clearer notion of Charpentier's stay in Rome but will permit research on this stage of his to move ahead somewhat more fruitfully. Indeed, if the trails I suggest here are followed, I believe we stand a good chance of one day uncovering evidence about Charpentier the Roman. I won't present all my hypotheses at once. For the moment, I will focus on the French colony in Rome, and then on Dassoucy's interaction with his compatriots between 1666 and 1668. And at the end a Frenchman called "Carpentier" will come out and welcome us to the French embassy in Rome.
The French presence in Rome was considerably reduced between 1662 and 1666, owing to the "Affaire des Corses" that began with shots were fired at the coach of Créquy, the French ambassador. Créquy withdrew from the city, and French visitors were discouraged from visiting Rome. Among the French who remained were a certain Jacques Dalibert, the poet Dassoucy and Bourlemont, the French attaché in the Palais Farnese. These individuals were acquainted; in fact, they saw each other more or less frequently throughout the 1660s. And Dassoucy tells us that he encountered Charpentier in Rome. For this reason, it is important to follow Dalibert and Dassoucy through the streets of Rome: for where they went, there Charpentier may also have trod.
With 1666 — and the end of the Corsican Affair — Dalibert, Dassoucy and the staff at the French embassy had coalesced into a circle of "bons François" who moved between two palaces, the Farnese, which housed the French delegation, and the Riario, official residence of Queen Christina of Sweden. Other Frenchmen in Rome came to the Farnese of course, to appear before the diplomatic staff with the letters of recommendation that were de rigueur, and to request passports for their sojourn in Rome. Although no record of these passports seems to have survived, I keep watching for allusions to French visitors in Rome between 1665 and 1670, in hopes that Charpentier will be mentioned. I may have found him; but the ground that must be covered to prove or disprove my conjecture is just too vast. I have therefore decided to make my findings and hypotheses available to scholars who work intensively on Rome in the 1660s.
The principal figures in the French colony of Rome, and the people they entertained, employed or helped, are at the center of a vast but tight web that encompassed all of Rome and that trained a discreet but no less watchful eye on every French visitor to the Eternal City. I am going to sketch the heart of this web, because I am convinced that Marc-Antoine Charpentier will one day be found there. From this heart several threads lead out.
One day I will write an article [I have written it; it is available on this site] about charming, obtuse, talented and comic Jacques II Dalibert, the son of Jacques I, Gaston d'Orléans' chief financial officer. I am sure that Dalibert's link to the Palais d'Orléans and to Monsieur (Gaston) and Madame (his wife) is very important for our understanding of Charpentier's stay in Rome. We know that in 1661 Charpentier's orphaned sister Elisabeth and her husband, the dancing master Jean Edouard, were protected by several of Monsieur and Madame's most influential officers (the Maliers, the Grymaudets). We also know that the one of Charpentier's close relatives (Jacques Havé de Saint-Aubin) was a gentilhomme in Gaston's household. In other words, future research can test the following working hypothesis: Someone at the Palais d'Orléans gave Charpentier a letter of recommendation to the Roman Dalibert, his close contemporary.
In 1662 Dalibert had been engaged as Christina of Sweden's secretary for French affairs, so he henceforth visited the French diplomats at the Farnese regularly. Even more interesting is the fact that Dalibert promptly became the Queen's master of revels. For example, he oversaw the preparation of the operas that Christina presented in 1666 and again in 1669. If, as I suspect (but cannot prove), Charpentier was in close touch with Dalibert during his stay in Rome, the young composer had a veritable open-sesame to the Roman musical world. In fact, as Charpentier's stay was drawing to a close, Dalibert received recognition for his talents as an impresario: Christina entrusted him with the direction of the Tordinona Theater in 1669.
The Queen's taste was extremely cosmopolitan. As a young woman back in Sweden, she had French and English songs played and sung for her, and Italian operas and songs as well; and at the time of her abdication in June 1654, she had three different musical ensembles in her pay, each performing in a distinct national style: French, English, Italian. Some of her Italian musicians journeyed with her to Rome, where she had Spanish and Italian plays performed and tried to acquire copies of the latest French plays. In short, the amusements that Jacques II Dalibert mounted at the Riario Palace were as cosmopolitan (and perhaps more cosmopolitan) as the population of Rome itself. True, his activities as impresario brought him chiefly in contact with virtuosi or with Italian actors trained in the commedia dell'arte, but it is likely that Dalibert was always on the lookout for French musicians who were passing through Rome and promptly asked them to contribute a French- style entertainment.
Some of the Queen's "debauches" drew papal censure, and one entertainment at the Riario caused a near riot. This particular performance was described as "bella e superbe" but "sporchissime," that is, very obscene; but this did not prevent a hoard of prelates from descending upon the Riario and forcing over fifty noblemen to be sent away so that these princes of the Church could be seated. Neither the queen's twelve Swiss guards nor the gentlemen who came to their aid could prevent the ensuing swordplay.
An allusion to the riot that spoiled these festivities resounds in a poem that Dassoucy addressed to Christina shortly after. In his A la Reyne de Suede pour entrer en sa Comédie en musique, Dassoucy refers to the "beaux concerts" given at the Riario and expresses his hope that, despite the "Suisses, ennemis des sons," the queen will "grant him a little introduction" to her "comédie," and that she will do so "sans lésion, ni péril de contusion." Several important clues woven into this apparently routine compliment shed light on the artistic circle that Marc-Antoine Charpentier presumably encountered not long afterward. Dassoucy refers to poems that he had previously presented ("que j'ay donnés") to Christina. In other words, he had been working hard to ingratiate himself and was now jogging the Sacred Royal Majesty‘s memory.
Dassoucy had left Florence in 1661, where he may well have met Dalibert, who was sucessfully negotating the marriage of one of Gaston d'Orléans daughters with Cosimo III Medicis. (We will focus on the Orléans later.) He settled down in Rome, apparently earning his living as a lute teacher. Although most French people left Rome after the Corsican affair of September 1662 and the rupture in diplomatic relations that followed,.Dassoucy stayed on. I did not find his name in the records of the stati d'anime preserved in the Vicariato of Rome, but this silence tells us something: the poet did not live in one of the streets around the Piazza di Spagna where the French congregated. (The records for this quarter of the city are complete for this period.) He must therefore have found lodgings in one of the sections of the city that were inhabited predominantly by Italians but for which the records are incomplete; or else he lived in one of the streets around the Farnese Palace, where he could benefit from the diplomatic immunity granted to the French embassy. (The registers for the Farnese quarter of the city have also been destroyed.) For two or three years Dassoucy led a quiet and relatively prosperous life: he won a lot of money gambling, and he was rewarded by the nobles for whom he sang and played his lute. By the fall of 1664 this calm period had ended when Pierrotin, his castrato "page," arrived, ill and penniless and moved in with the poet. Dassoucy's generosity eventually ruined him: in 1667 he had to sell most of his possessions to pay Pierrotin's debts.
In other words judging from another of Dassoucy's poems, the poet had an audience with Christina of Sweden (or found a way to give several of his poems to her) at some point between July 1662, when the Queen returned from a first trip to Hamburg, and early 1666, when he alluded to the riot in a poem. Shortly before this first audience, desiring to be "glorieux, superbe et triomphant, arrivant à la Cour de la grande Christine, qui peut bien luy payer, et son Luth et son Chant," the poet requested twenty écus from the "Marquis de Monthieu, estant à Rome." (I haven't been able to date Monthieu's visit.) At the end of his interview with the Queen, Dassoucy received a gift — and he may have been invited back to the Riario, for Her Majesty was attracted to the burlesque and the libertine.
On the surface, the poem that Dassoucy sent Christina shortly after the riot of 1666 suggests that he was seeking reassurance that he would be able to attend performances in the royal theater without fear of expulsion; yet these lines can be given quite a different reading, and the witty Majesty doubtlessly grasped Dassoucy's deeper message. The title of the poem states his hopes quite succinctly: "To the Queen of Sweden, to enter her musical theater (her comédie en musique)." He is not asking admission to performances of her chamber operas, he is asking to be added to her performing troop. In the poem proper, Dassoucy alludes to "several" people who have assured him that the Queen would "allow him to enter": in other words, he was sure he would be recommended by some of her household officers, or by a close friend such as Cardinal Azzolino. In a word, it is clear that Dassoucy had been granted a partial entrée to the Riario well before Carnival of 1666, and that he saw Dalibert frequently.
The petition in verse that Dassoucy sent Christina in 1666 raises other questions. First of all, the poet is hoping to gain entry to the "comédie en musique" during the days that followed the riot, that is, on the eve of Lent. Why make such a request if the "troop" (which sources describe as made up of musici virtuossimi) was about to disband and would not perform again for another year, as is sometimes argued today? If Dassoucy expressed his hopes of being admitted to the Queen's troop, he surely was not planning a year in advance. In other words, the Queen seems to have had "comédies en musique" performed throughout the year, irrespective of papal interdicts. Her kingdom had shrunk to the dimensions of a Roman palace, but, as her critics pointed out, Christina continued to behave as a sovereign and to do whatever she pleased.
Did Dassoucy become a part of Christina's household circa March 1666? Probably. Had he failed, would he have allowed those lines to appear in print? True, he took real pleasure in describing his various misfortunes and disgraces, but the poems published inevitably allude to his success at gaining the protection of the person to whom the poem is addressed. If he became a part of Christina's music, did his dear Pierrotin follow on his heels? Perhaps. During the Carnival season of 1660, Christina had been charmed by the timbre and power of the castrato voice when she heard a young castrato who was being trained by Giovanni Bicilly, Pierrotin's future teacher.
If Dassoucy became one of Christina's musicians, it was only for a short time. All musical activities at the Riario ceased abruptly in May 1666 when the Queen left for a second visit to Hamburg, not to return until November 1668. (By then Dassoucy was on his way back to Paris.) Christina dismissed most of her domestics, including her musicians, and carried off all the cash she could find. So it was that, in May 1666, her unemployed musicians began to seek out other protectors. The renowned singer Ciccolino headed for the Savoy court at Turin. And Dassoucy began making overtures to the diplomatic staff at the Farnese. For, after a hiatus of four years, the Louis XIV was sending a French ambassador to Rome, and the ambassador doubtlessly would be looking for musicians.
A month after Queen Christina's departure, the Duke of Chaulnes made
his official entry into Rome and settled down in the Farnese with his
wife, their servants and his administrative staff. Dassoucy wasted no
time: he presented Chaulnes with a welcoming poem. Over the next twenty-
seven months, he would offer several poems to the ambassador and his
staff. In short, from July 1666 on, Dassoucy did everything possible to
curry favor with his powerful compatriots. And he succeeded.
Did Jacques II Dalibert prepare the way for him? There is no evidence one way or the other.
Throughout 1665 and 1666, Dalibert had, however, been working very closely with the diplomats at the Farnese, who appear to have been eager to please their compatriot. After all, Dalibert was a cut above the usual household officer, he was a relative of Michel Le Tellier, the French war minister, and he was a protégé of Hugues de Lionne, the French foreign minister. This helps explain why Lionne not only recommended Dalibert (who was barely out of his teens) to Cardinal Azzolino but allowed the brash youth to play a role in the settlement of the Corsican affair in 1662 and in the dispute between Louis XIV and Christina of Sweden in 1665. Dalibert's family ties to the Le Telliers clearly counted for a lot. Still, young Dalibert had other protectors, including the disgraced yet influential Cardinal Retz. In other words, Christina's all-too-indiscreet secretary was part of an international network that sent gossip and diplomatic dispatches back and forth from Paris to Rome to Turin and to Florence, and that did everything it could to advance one another's relatives, friends and protégés.
The diplomatic correspondence between Rome and Paris that has been preserved at the Quai d'Orsay lets us see how the members of this network helped one another. For example, in May 1666, Retz recommended to Lionne the nephew of Benedetto Millani, Christina's librarian. The Cardinal pointed out that he was writing the minister himself, rather than ask Bourlemont, the French resident in Rome, to transmit a recommendation to Lionne:
Je revoie tous les jours à Mr de Bourlemont les gens qui viennent à moy pour ces sortes d'affaires; mais je n'ay pû me defendre de vous escrire en faveur de celuy-cy, et parce que son Oncle est domestique de la Reine de Suede, et parce qu'il est mon amy fort particulier.
In other words, prior to the Duke of Chaulnes' arrival in Rome, Bourlemont not only represented France, he shuffled a multitude of requests from people who wished to find work for a relative or a protégé, and he did his utmost to place these people as quickly and advantageously as possible. This conduit worked in both directions and had several variations. Bourlemont generally transmitted recommendations to Lionne; and Lionne generally transmitted recommendations to Bourlemont. But Lionne could by-pass Bourlemont and write directly to the potential protector or employer, as he had done when he recommended Dalibert to Cardinal Azzolino, Christina's friend, in 1662; and Retz could by-pass Bourlemont and write directly to Lionne, as he did for Millani. The correspondents varied, but the conduit was a constant.
Bourlement was also an auditors of the Rota. The minister in Paris had therefore asked him to watch out for the Guise interests in the suit being brought against them by the Countess of Bossut, who insisted that her marriage to the late Duke Henri of Guise was valid. Between March 1665 and March 1666, Bourlemont kept Lionne informed about the Rota's position, and Lionne transmitted this information to Mlle de Guise. Indeed, it appears to have been Lionne who advised Marie de Lorraine to ignore the lawsuit and refrain from sending a lawyer or a procureur to defend the Guise position before the Rota, thereby demonstrating that the decision of a Roman court had no force in France and that Mme de Bossut had no claim to any part of the Duke's estate.
Bourlemont wrote Lionne on Dalibert's behalf several times, and the royal minister promised to do his utmost for the young French expatriate. It is relatively rare to find a recommendation of this sort in the diplomatic dispatches of the 1660s. Most letters of recommendation were little one- or two-page notes that were tucked into the dispatch case and promptly turned over to the addressee. Still, using Retz's protection of Millani and Lionne's of Dalibert as models, it is possible to imagine the letters of recommendation that the diplomats at the Farnese Palace might have received about Dassoucy — or about Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
With the arrival of the Chaulnes in July 1666, the French colony in Rome took on a very different appearance. Let's look more closely at these diplomats, starting with the ambassador himself. Charles d'Albert d'Ailly, Duke of Chaulnes, was the nephew of Louis XIII's favorite, the Duke of Luynes. Like Jacques II Dalibert — and like Marc-Antoine Charpentier — Chaulnes had at least one relative in the late Gaston d'Orléans's household: his aunt had married the Marquis of Mons, Monsieur's maître d'hôtel. Chaulnes was also related by marriage to the Séguiers, the long- time protectors of Charpentier's cousins, the Sevin-Croyers. (Chaulnes' first cousin had married Louise Séguier, the first cousin of the Duchess of Sully, Sevin's employer.) With Chaulnes' marriage to Elisabeth Le Feron, the strong family ties between the Chaulnes, the Serviens (sic: not to be confused with the Sevins), the Sullys and the Séguiers were extended to the Bailleuls. To be precise, the aunt of Marie Malier (the latter a "friend" of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's family) had married Mme de Chaulnes' great-uncle; and then, in 1663 (shortly after Elisabeth Charpentier's wedding and shortly before Marc-Antoine's departure for Rome) Mme de Chaulnes' first cousin married a Bailleul. The child of this union had President Louis de Bailleul (Marie Malier's son) as godfather and the Duchess of Chaulnes as godmother.
These allusions to affective and family ties are not intended to suggest that the Duke of Chaulnes many have come into contact with Marc-Antoine Charpentier in Rome, circa 1666 or 1667. That neither the Duke's diplomatic correspondence nor the letters his wife addressed to the minister in Paris mention anyone named Charpentier can be seen as evidence that the budding composer was unknown to the diplomats at the Farnese. Still, such an assumption would be simplistic. The diplomatic correspondence that has survived contains primarily information that could pass through the hands of the ministerial personnel and find its way to the King's desk. We cannot expect such correspondence to contain an allusion to a clerk, a secretary, a copyist, a valet, a musician, a composer. And we therefore cannot rule out the possibility that someone in Paris recommended Charpentier to the Ambassador.
Shortly after the Chaulnes' arrival in Rome, two other Frenchmen came to the Farnese Palace. One of them was Abbé de Machault .(He does not seem to be the Jesuit by that name: I assume that it was either Jean Machault, abbot of Saint-Pierre, or Jean-François, abbé of Morimond, his brother). Machault had worked for ambassador Créqui in 1664 and 1665. Although Machault was related to the Sevins, the letters he sent back to the minister in Paris never mention Charpentier. His correspondence with Lionne between mid-1666 and January 1669 does however include some details about the entertainments the Ambassador prepared for his guests. In fact, it reveals that Machault was having dealings with Dassoucy by February 1667 at the latest. (And indeed, Dassoucy dedicated a poem to this "ange du Farneze, Esprit exempt de tous deffauts.")
At approximately the same time, in mid-1666, Abbé Hugues-Humbert Servien was invited to move into the Farnese by his close relative, Mme de Chaulnes. The invitation was enthusiastically received by the Abbé's father, Ennemond Servien, French ambassador to the court of Turin. (Jacques II Dalibert had worked closely with him during the Savoy marriage negotations.) The elder Servien was Dassoucy's erstwhile protector. Throughout Marc-Antoine Charpentier's stay in Rome, Abbé Servien corresponded regularly with his first cousin and godfather, Lionne back in Paris — but he mentioned neither Dassoucy nor Charpentier. By contrast, his letters make it very clear that he saw Dalibert often.
By July 1667, Abbé Servien had been appointed camérier to the the new pope, Clement IX; shortly afterwards he became an auditor in the Rota. As camerier he came into frequent contact with Christina of Sweden's secretaries, especially Jacques Dalibert. When Chaulnes and his entourage returned to Paris in September 1668, Servien stayed on in the Farnese. Then, in August 1669, Servien started off on a papal mission to Paris, arriving in the capital by mid-September. In other words, Hugues-Humbert Servien arrived in Rome during the summer of 1666 and left that city exactly three years later. It may be pure coincidence, but Marc-Antoine Charpentier appears to have left Paris during the summer of 1666, and to have returned there during the final months of 1669. Was he one of Servien's traveling companions?
By the summer of 1666, with French travelers once again feeling safe in Rome, Chaulnes — whose duties included watching over his compatriots and disciplining the numerous French "fainéants" who begged on street corners and "shamed the nation" — was inundated by his police duties during that summer. In November 1666 he informed Lionne that:
Ce que je trouve de plus considerable est qu'en quatre mois d'esté où l'on entre peu à Rome, j'ay donné près de neuf cent passepors; c'est à dire que dans l'année il faut qu'il y en aient plus de trois milles, dont le tiers ne reviennent pas et qui pourront fort bien se trouver en France.
Did Marc-Antoine Charpentier appear at the Farnese Palace that year, before the summer heat set in, show Bourlement his health certificate and the letters of recommendation that every prudent traveler carried with him, and receive one of those 900 passports in return ? Was he delayed until the sweltering days of mid-summer? Or did he wait until the cooler fall weather? It is impossible to say, because no passport records have apparently survived.
Nine hundred passports issued during the summer of 1666, and at least three thousand by the start of the new year! One of them surely bearing the name of "Marcq Anthoine Charpentier." Many of these visitors found furnished lodgings in the tourist sections of the city and stayed only long enough to see Saint Peter's Basilica and the principal churches and palaces of Rome. Then they either headed back to France or crossed the Italian boot to the pilgrimage site of Loreto. Since Charpentier settled down in Rome for several years, the most promising place to search for him would seem to be the coattails of a Frenchman who made a relatively lengthy visit to Rome: for example, the ambassador and his staff (especially Abbé Servien), French ecclesiastics who came to Rome on business or as pilgrims, French noblemen made spent a minimum of several months there, or permanently established Frenchmen (among them Dassoucy and Dalibert) who earned their livelihood by representing influential French or Roman families. It is, of course, possible that Charpentier traveled with a clergyman or a noble who made only a brief visit to Rome, and that he stayed on after his traveling companion's departure. If so, finding him will depend on pure chance, not logic.
A. The Longueville thread
[Please see the message from Philip Grover, which permits us to more or less rule out this thread, and to investigate other leads instead.]
My attention was caught by the presence in Rome of one particular French nobleman. This individual spent almost three years in Rome and the dates of his visit (November 1666 to early December 1669) coincide with the hypothetical dates of Charpentier's stay in Rome. Like the Charpentier family, this nobleman had close ties to the Parisian Jesuits. And — if that is a factor — he was Charpentier's close contemporary.
Jean-Louis-Charles d'Orléans, Duke of Longueville, had recently shocked everyone by announcing his intention to become a Jesuit. Despite the objections of his mother, Mme de Longueville, and his uncle, the Grand Condé, he moved into the Jesuit Noviciate in Paris. It was becoming increasingly clear that the prince was mentally disturbed, but this did not deter the Jesuits from trying to land this illustrous novice. The family eventually coaxed him out of the Noviciate, only to have Louis XIV order him to join the French volunteers who were fighting the Turks. In October 1666 the prince therefore set off for Italy, having assembled a few "gentilshommes" and a handful of domestics who could act as both valets and secretaries; and he collected or borrowed every coin he could lay his hands on (he was still a minor and had little control over his vast fortune).Longueville and his companions set off for Turin; but instead of continuing on to Venice, the little band abruptly veered south and entered Rome incognito in November 1666.
At first glance the working hypothesis that Marc-Antoine Charpentier could have been part of this band seems preposterous. It becomes slightly less so when we realize that Charpentier's cousins were in contact with the Condé circle during these very years. For example, the Grand Condé had signed the wedding contract of one of Charpentier's Sevin cousins only four years earlier, in the presence of their other cousins, Marthe Croyer and Jacques Havé de Saint-Aubin, gentleman to the late Gaston d'Orléans. Connections no stronger than this are known to have resulted in nominations or preferments, so it would be unwise to judge that this particular thread is too implausible to merit a researcher's attention.
Longueville was greeted with open arms by the Roman Jesuits, who arranged for him to hide in the Greek College, just a few steps from the Piazza di Spagna. He soon moved to the Jesuit Noviciate, where he took his vows on November 24; next he lodged briefly with the fathers of the Christian Doctrine, but he found these quarters just as intolerable as every other lodging that was offered him — even the "palace" on the Piazza Navona owned by the church called Saint Louis des Français. In late November 1666, Longueville moved yet again, having decided to "meubler assez simplement un logis" in an unspecificed section of the city. Going by the name "M. de Méru," the novice began going on foot throughout Rome as if he were a commoner, and playing the pilgrim.
Fearing that he would be prevented from "se vêtir de long" — that is, wearing the cassock he so ardently desired — Longueville forbade "à un sien confidant, qui seul sait où il est, de le dire." The French embassy played along with the young man for several months, keeping him under surveillance without officially recognizing his presence in Rome. This fiction did not keep Ambassador Chaulnes from talking to Longueville at some point prior to January 25, 1667 and attempting to convince him to return to Paris. Once Longueville reached Rome and broke with his family, he could, of course, no longer count on letters of credit from his mother or his uncle. Indeed, the family tried to force him into submission by blocking his allowance. The prince had to get by on the gradually dwindling cash he had brought from France, and eventually throw himself at the mercy of the Jesuits.
Though officially incognito, Longueville continually called attention to himself by his "bizarre" behavior, which was merely an extension of the irrational conduct that had caused such concern back in Paris. Now and again he would go off on a pilgrimage with a group of monks. One of these departures from Rome caused the ambassador to share his worries with Louis XIV: "Personne de ses gentilshommes ne sçait ce qu'il fait, et c'est l'esprit le plus inegal que l'on puisse s'imaginer." Despite his family's opposition, Longueville — who now called himself "Abbé d'Orléans" — became a priest in December 1669, said his first mass on December 3, the feast day of St. François Xavier, then immediately started back to Paris and began preparations to turn the duchy over to his younger brother. November 1666 to December 1669: like Charpentier (and like Abbé Servien), Longueville spent "three years" in Rome; and he returned to Paris only a few months prior to the first piece that Charpentier composed for the Guises: a setting of a text for Holy Week of 1670.
B. The Orleanist thread
Several French Jesuits were able to observe these events in Rome very closely. Among them was Father Claude Boucher, who had been rector of the Collège de Clermont during the years when Longueville was feeling his vocation and when Abbé Servien had been a student there. Boucher's associate was Michel Danouville, a Jesuit converse who had left the Parisian Noviciate to follow him to Rome as his "coadjutor." Interestingly enough, Boucher and Danouville were handling several matters for Marguerite de Lorraine, the Dowager of Orléans.
The importance of this Orléanist thread must not be brushed aside. Jacques II Dalibert had been enmeshed in it since birth. And Marc-Antoine Charpentier clearly had access to this protective network, through his cousins the Havé de Saint-Aubin and through family friends such as the Maliers and the Grymaudets who were Monsieur's household officers. In the late 1660s, at the center of this web sat the dowager Madame, that is Marguerite de Lorraine, the widow of Gaston d'Orléans. And at her side was her daughter Isabelle, the new duchess of Guise and soon-to-be protectress of Charpentier.
Marguerite de Lorraine was pressuring the papal nuncio on behalf of the nephew of Elisabeth Malier, an influential friend of the Charpentier family. A brief note from the Dowager to the papal nuncio in Paris has survived and shows the important role a third party can play in an individual's search for a protector:
Monsieur le nonce,
Je vous fait ceste lettre pour vous prier instanment de vouloire escrire à Rome pour les interests de Monsieur l'Evesque de Betheleem [Marc Malier], qui est une personne digne d'estre assistés. Vous m'obligerez extremment [??] prenant grand part à ses afaires. Celuy qui vous rendra ceste cy vous explicquera son afaires, vous protestant que je seray toute ma vie, Monsieur le nonce, vostre bien bonne amie,
In other words, the Dowager did not commit herself on paper. She sent a third party whom she was careful not to name, to state her wishes face to face. And she expected a fourth party — in this case the papal nuncio — to relay the message to Rome. If the House of Orléans played a part in arranging Marc-Antoine Charpentier's trip to Rome, any recommendation on his behalf surely were been transmitted in just this way.
Isabelle d'Orléans, the new Duchess of Guise, sent the Pope a similar letter on January 13, 1668, to request a benefice for one of her late father's agents:
Tres Saint Pere,
L'indisposition où j'ay estée depuis quelque temps m'a empeschée de rendre plustost à V.S. mes tres humbles devoirs [...]. J'ose esperer que [V.S] ne desagreera pas les voeus que je fais pour sa longue prosperité, ny les ordres que j'ay donné au sieur Bousquet, expeditionaire français, pour luy aller baiser les pieds de ma part, et la supplier tres humblement de trouver bon que je luy recommande dans les occasions des vacances des benefices de France, le sieur de Fioravanti, c'est un gentilhomme originaire de Toscane qui a esté tres longtemps employé à Rome par feu Monsieur.
Like her mother, she used a go-between who resided in Rome: Sieur Bousquet, who was supposed to go to the Vatican to kiss His Holiness's feet in her stead. I have not been able to learn anything about Bousquet, but he surely was a trusted agent for the Orléans or the Guises — and perhaps for both households, because the Dowager and the two Guise ladies consulted one another continually. Living in Rome as he did, Bousquet surely was well acquainted with Signor Fioravanti, who for "très longtemps," had been Gaston d'Orléans' agent there. We can suppose that Fioravanti was a relative of the Sieur "Fieravanty"/Fioravanti who was Mme de Guise's secrétaire des commandements, and of his sister, her principal chambermaid and childhood companion. In other words, during Charpentier's stay in Rome, young Mme de Guise could tap into a very solid network of pro-French contacts in that city whenever she sought a favor from papal officials, Roman Jesuits or the diplomats at the Farnese Palace. She could also tap into a Florentine network, for her sister had recently wed Cosimo III de Medici. And, as Isabelle pointed out, the Fioravantis were Florentines.
This network communicated in the reverse direction, of course. That is to say, a Frenchman or an Italian in Rome could tap into this network and transmit to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Guise a petition in favor of someone then in Italy. It is also likely that the various Daliberts who oversaw the secretarial and financial affairs of Gaston d'Orléans and his wife had worked closely not only with the "Fieravanty" pair in Paris but with Bousquet and Fioravanti in Rome. Despite his youth and his brashness, Jacques II Dalibert occupied an important position in this network; and if, as I surmise, his path crossed Charpentier's between 1666 and 1669, he was in a position to recommend the composer to Mme de Guise in 1669.
This summary tableau of the network of Roman contacts available to Marguerite de Lorraine, Mme de Guise, Mlle de Guise or the Grand Condé can serve as the underpinning for a series of working hypotheses about how the almost penniless Charpentier managed a trip to Rome, eked out a living there for three years, then was snapped up at once by the Guises when he returned to Paris. Research on the Charpentier family, plus the signatures of influential people that add luster to his sister's wedding contract of 1661, leave no doubt that Marc-Antoine Charpentier had affective links to these Parisian princesses and somewhat more impersonal links to powerful Frenchmen in Rome. Irrespective of the circumstances in which Charpentier made his way to Rome circa 1666, we can presume that he visited the Farnese at least once, to complete the usual formalities.
May 1999: To this thread a new filament should perhaps be added. I am currently editing the travel account of a Jansenist theologian who spent December 1664 in Rome. There he saw Armand-Jean Bouthiller de Rancé, abbé de la Trappe. Rancé had arrived in Rome on November 12, 1664 and remained there until early February 1665, when he suddenly headed back to France; but when he reached Lyon, Rancé made an about-face and was back in Rome by April 1, 1665. He spent the summer there (visting with Cardinal de Retz) and set off for France and his abbey in late February 1666.
Now, like Charpentier's cousins, the Havés, Rancé had long "belonged" to the House of Orléans. He had been Gaston d'Orléans's chapelain; and, like Jacques II Dalibert, he was among the handful of profoundly devoted servants at Monsieur's deathbed in February 1660. It therefore seems prudent for scholars to keep Rancé in mind as they read correspondence from the mid-1660s, for there is a chance, albeit slight, that Charpentier traveled to Rome with Rancé. If so, Charpentier probably stayed on in Rome after February 1666 — circa which date, as I suggest below, he entered into contact with Dassoucy. (If we suppose that Marc-Antoine was part of the saintly Rancé's entourage, he would scarcely have dared speak to that libertine prior to February 1666!). And he would have hitched a ride, so to speak, back to Paris with another compatriot, circa 1669. (For more on Rancé, see A..J. Krailsheimer, Armand-Jean de Rancé, Abbot of la Trappe, Oxford: Clarendon, 1974).
Be that as it may, the tale I am about to tell suggests, that Charpentier went to the Farnese quite often — and that he and Dassoucy worked sporadically for the French diplomats there.
As one might expect, Ambassador Chaulnes entertained lavishly, and each entertainment was accompanied by musical or theatrical performances. For example, on Saint Louis's day and at Mardi Gras triumphal floats would carry French-sponsored musicians through the neighboring streets. Now, in March 1667, during the mascarades of Shrove Tuesday eve, Dassoucy helped the staff prepare a float from which the embassy personnel (including Signor Maffei), dressed up as sybils, tossed "confitures et Pois sucrez de toutes parts." Preceded by pages and écuyers dressed as Moors and by a "Concert des Trompettes, des Hautbois, Fifres et Muzettes," the sybils "recited" a mascarade "en vers de Langues différentes." Chaulnes wrote Lionne about the mascarade:
Je vous envoye le sujet de la mascarade en vers françois et italiens. L'abbé Santis a fait les seconds, et un nommé d'Assouci les premiers. Ensuite de la mascarade l'on eut la comedie italienne et [en???] ce palais, ainsy qu'aujourd'huy de deux troupes differentes et fort bonnes.
Abbé Machaut also sent Lionne the verse that had been "recited" (as in "recitativo"?); and he too stated that Dassoucy was the author.
Six months later, during Carnival of 1667, Chaulnes prepared several "comédies" and planned to offer "toutes les semaines des divertissements au public où tout se passera assurément avec beaucoup de magnificence." The original plan seems to have involved hiring two troops of Italian actors who would perform on alternate days throughout the Carnival season. But then someone got the idea of adding an opera written just for the occasion. The two different types of performances soon became so intermingled in the minds of the personnel at the Farnese that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one event from another. By mid-January Chaulnes had found "a" troup — a troop composed of five papal singers and Signora Maria Vittoria, which had performed an opera for Christina in 1666.
J'auray une troupe de Rome qui joueront seulement dans mon palais, ayant creu que ce divertissement chez moy pouvoit aprivoiser le monde, et contribuer au service du Roy: ce sont les mesmes qui jouaient devant la Reyne de Suede.
In other words, having heard about the entertainment that Christine had offered her Roman friends the previous year (probably the one that ended in a riot), the embassy staff had sought Jacques II Dalibert's help.
The correspondence of Ugo Maffei, an Italian who had been attached to the Farnese since the early 1660s, contains another bit of information that may be important clue. Maffei was initially quite skeptical about the "comedy" that was being prepared at the Farnese: "come sono giovani virtuosi, io non ni spero cas bona." By "virtuosi" it seems, at first reading, that Maffei was talking about the singers who had performed for Christina of Sweden. If so, why was he so worried? Those particular "virtuosi" had demonstrated their skills at the Riario a year earlier — and in the papal chapel as well. In short, it appears that Maffei is talking about an entirely different group of performers: some talented young people (giovani virtuosi) with little stage experience. Was he referring to Pierrotin (who now went by the name Pietro Valentino), to Marc-Antoine Charpentier and to a few other of Dassoucy's young friends? Remember, Dassoucy was in Chaulnes' pay at the time.
The opera being prepared was given a hybrid title by the embassy staff: Les accidents d'Amore. It would include "de beaux intermèdes et changements de décors." And it was a great success: Chaulnes wrote back to Paris enthusiastically:
Dimanche j'ay donné le divertissement à tout Rome, ayant esté à la comédie publique et laissé la liberté à tout le monde d'entrer à celle que j'ay fay reciter dans ce Palais. J'ay fait dresser le theatre au bout de la galerie haute, par la voute de laquelle le dernier entend aussi bien que le premier, et il y vint plus de cinq ou six cens personnes. L'on joüe presque tous les jours, tantost une troupe d'opera, tantost une comedie: et pour conclusion M. le duc de Bracciano en fait concerter une en musique, qui y sera aussi récitée.
The impresario for this "comédie en musique," also called this "comedia in musicha," was Flavio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, a pensioner of the king of France. (In 1675 he would marry Anne de la Trémoüille, the famous "princesse des Ursins") In other words, like Dalibert at the Riario, in return for his pension Bracciano planned operas and other entertainments.
The festivities at the Farnese Palace were very well received. Chaulnes soon informed Louis XIV that he had entertained 1,200 people in the King's name:
[...] sans le moindre embarras, et sans qu'elles ayent eu la moindre peine, et que la Reyne de Suede l'année passée avec douze Suisses et quantité de gentilshommes n'avoit pû empescher que l'on ne tirast l'espée jusque dans son antichambre: ce divertissement plus sérieux se continuera tout ce carnaval, estant alternativement meslé de comedies Italiennes, qui sont jouées les autres jours par deux troupes différentes.
By "divertissement plus sérieux" Chaulnes seems to have meant Les Accidents d'Amore, which some sources call an "opéra," others call a "comédie en musique" and still others a "Régale Musical ou une comédie à la mode de l'Italie."
Ugo Maffei penned his own enthusiastic appraisal of the event and declared that the "comédie en musique" had "veritablement réussi" and that "cet opéra a plu non seulement aux Italiens mais au Français":
très belle recitation par tous les acteurs à perfection, la composition de la musique par un grand virtuose, lequel veut se faire connoitre, qui a la pretention, qui veut devenir maître de chapelle de Saint Louis comme il l'est maintenant de Saint Jean de Lateran. Les costumes des personnages riches et charmantes, comme les ballets, ont eté grandement loués par tous. [... Chaulnes] a recemment fait decorer le theatre d'une scène, de lumières portées par des bras d'argent doré, et de lustres en crystal.
Thanks to these comments, we can identify the composer of Les Accidents d'Amore: it was Ercole Bernabei, organist and soon-to-be chapel-master of Saint Louis des Français. Although Maffei's praise permits us to imagine the beauty of the room, it does tell us whether the libretto was entirely in Italian. We do know that the opera was preceded by a in honor Louis XIV's daughter, born in January 1667. Chaulnes does not name the author or authors of this prologue, nor does he specify the language.
Was the prologue in French? And if so, was it penned by Dassoucy? Ecstatic about his success, Chaulnes sent Lionne the libretto for the prologue and commented: "Je me declare pour la musique d'Italie contre celle de France." (The libretto does not seem to be in Lionne's archives.) The ambassador's comment suggests that the two national styles were woven together into a single bilingual performance, perhaps a French prologue followed by an Italian opera larded with French songs — just as French operas of the 1670s and 1680s tended to weave an Italian song or two into their plots. Was the French material organized, written and/or performed by Dassoucy and Pierrotin? Once again the sources do not permit an answer. Still, how better to introduce the Romans to French theater than to ask Dassoucy, the inventor of the genre that the French called the "comédie en musique," to contribute to this "opéra," this "comédie en musique"?
The cost of these lavish entertainments soon emptied Chaulnes's private purse and forced him to beg for a prompt recall to France. Louis XIV disregarded his pleas. In June the French colony took part in another parade, contributing at least two floats. Chaulnes planned to ride on one of them himself:
J'espère paroître dans mes chars de triomphe, qui sans vanité sont les plus beaux qui ayent encore paru dans Rome: cela me sied peut estre pas bien de le dire, mais comme je ne les ay pas fait, j'ay creu en pouvoir parler.
None of the diplomatic dispatches discuss the parade in detail, so we can only surmise that Maffei, Abbé Santis (and perhaps Dassoucy) were at the ambassador's side that day. Just as we can only suppose that Dassoucy was among the musicians in August 1667 when Chaulnes invited the new pope's nephews to dinner:
la curiosité ayant porté plus de deux cens personnes à voir tant cette nouveauté que la manière dont on traitait à la française, je n'oubliay rien pour les satisfaire, et après le souper, par les meilleurs concerts de Rome.
Though the entertainment was "à la française" — an expression that suggests that French vocal airs and dance music were on the agenda that day — the trumpets of which Italians were so fond figured in the entertainment, where violons played alternately with trumpets.
In November 1667, one of Jacques II Dalibert's relatives — none other than the son of Michel Le Tellier — arrived in Rome and was taken in charge by the staff at the Farnese. Abbé Le Tellier charmed and fascinated the Romans during his three months stay in Rome. To honor his illustrious guest, Chaulnes planned a "little comedy" for mid-January 1668. Now, it so happened that the ambassador had been ordered to find an Italian actor willing to journey to Paris and replace Scaramouche, who wanted to leave the king's Italian troup and return to Italy. Thus it came to pass that, on January 13, 1668, Le Tellier attended "una picola comedia"; on the 15th, he watched a brilliant performance by Scaramouche and on the 25th, he saw yet another "comédie." The "Scaramouche" in question doubtlessly was Girolamo Cei, whom Chaulnes retained in Rome until January 31, 1668. In other words, the new Scaramouche (who "a plus d'esprit que Scaramouche mais il n'a pas le corps tout à fait si bon, et je souhaite qu'il vous fasse rire") performed at several of the entertainments attended by Abbé Le Tellier.
The ambassador had also ordered his staff to prepare another "comédie en musique" (or, says another letter, "quelques comédies en musique") to honor Abbé Le Tellier during Carnival. When Le Tellier announced, circa January 20, 1668, that he would be leaving Rome by the end of the month, Chaulnes exhorted his staff to speed up their preparations for a farewell party and to make sure that the "comédie" ready by the night before the Abbé's departure. The diplomatic correspondence says nothing more about this musical event, but other evidence suggests why preparations may have been going so slowly. If Chaulnes had initially counted on Dassoucy for this performance, he was forced to find a replacement in mid-December of 1667 when the poet was arrested and imprisoned by the Inquisition.
Dassoucy is one of the keys that eventually will permit us to break the silence surrounding Charpentier's stay in Rome. (Another key is, of course, Carissimi and his circle, and a third one is the Jesuits.) So, I will review what Dassoucy says about Charpentier and Rome. Better yet, I will give this evidence a closer reading than it usually receives. This means back-tracking a bit and reexamining some of the evidence presented above.
We have seen that Dassoucy was probably in contact with Christina of Sweden's household at the Riario by early 1666, and that he can be presumed to have struck up a friendship with his ebullient compatriot Jacques II Dalibert, director of Queen Christina's festivities.
We know that an encounter between Dassoucy and Charpentier occurred, but we don't know when. This does not mean that we cannot narrow the time slot: Dassoucy was arrested in early December of 1667 and his departure in the fall of 1668 after eight months in jail provides us with a terminus ad rem. In other words, the first meeting between Charpentier and Dassoucy, and their subsequent association had to occur between the spring of 1666 at the earliest and the fall of 1667 — a period of some sixteen months.
We don't know what Charpentier was doing during these sixteen months — other than "seeing Carissimi often." But we have a pretty good idea about Dassoucy's activities. During the greater part of this period, he was a part-time employee of the Duke of Chaulnes. That is, we found him at the Farnese in January and February 1667, writing verse and, it would seem, helping the Duke of Bracciano and Ugo Maffei prepare a "comédie en musique" that was part French and part Italian and that was performed by a troop who had worked with Dalibert a year earlier. Indeed, it is likely that Dassoucy borrowed some of the costumes and stage settings that were sitting unused at the Riario while Christina was in Hamburg. It was roughly at this time that Mme de Chaulnes gave Dassoucy a "flambeau en argent," perhaps to reward him for his work on this stage performance, perhaps to thank him for concerts he had given at the Farnese. This is the tale as Dassoucy tells it. Stories of the elderly master who is cheated by the dissolute youth or servant is, however, a familiar genre; so it may be prudent to take Dassoucy's assertions with more than one grain of salt. Be that as it may, the poet probably was quite down on his luck by the end of 1667.
The months when he was working on the fêtes at the Farnese were difficult ones for Dassoucy, as far as his personal life was concerned. He had been living quite well since his arrival in Rome in 1662, earning a comfortable income by teaching singing and lute, and rounding out his budget by gambling. He also received presents from the noble families for whom he performed (and to whom he penned either "requêtes" for payment or thank-you poems). Then Pierrotin appeared on his doorstep in 1665 and sent Dassoucy's world topsy-turvy. The young castrato was quite ill when he reached Rome, so the poet paid for medicine and physicians. The young man's clothes were in a pitiful state, so the poet bought him a new wardrobe. The former "page" had no pocket money and could not gamble, so the poet gave him money. Pierrotin was continually drunk, yet Dassoucy went on paying for his drinks. In short, Pierrotin literally ate and drank up the poet's income and savings. In January 1667, Dassoucy was forced to sell almost everything he owned to pay his debts. He even parted with the silver candlestick from Mme de Chaulnes. By November 1667, the situation had so deteriorated that the poet had Pierrotin arrested, alleging that the lad had tried to poison and rob him.
It was during this extremely difficult time that Dassoucy took Marc-Antoine Charpentier under his wing and, he implies, showed him the same generosity he had shown Pierrotin. Later he would paint a highly unfavorable picture of Marc-Antoine, asserting that the composer was:
[un] garçon qui pour avoir les ventricules du cerveau fort endommagés, n'est pas pourtant un fol à lier mais un fol à plaindre, et qui ayant eu dans Rome besoin de mon pain et de ma pitié, n'est guère plus sensible à mes grâces que tant d'autres vipères que j'ai nourries dans mon sein. [...] et que cet homme, qui sans doute est un original, ne soit pas pourtant si original qu'il ne s'en puisse trouver aux Incurables quelque copie.
These few lines in the Rimes redoublés, which Dassoucy published not long after his return to Paris, reveal the poet's profound need to "nurture" young musicians. (This led to his being accused, rightly or wrongly, of pederasty or sodomy.) He continually opened his purse to a series of gifted lads. To use Dassoucy's own expression, he "nurtured them in his breast." This "nourishment," this "nurture," doubtlessly included food and drink; but the expression also evokes an artistic nurturing during which the master gives a bit of himself to his apprentice, like the pelican who rips out its own heart to feed its young.
It is significant that Dassoucy uses the word "nourrir" to describe his relationship with Marc- Antoine Charpentier, and that he equates the young composer with the other "vipers" who had disregarded his generosity. Famed as a singing teacher, did Dassoucy impart some of the secrets of his art to Charpentier, who in the 1670s and 1680s clearly sang a good or even excellent haute-contre part? This would seem to be the case; for even if he is exaggerating, as was his wont, Dassoucy presents Charpentier as yet another of his apprentices. Indeed, it is significant that Dassoucy does not talk about a friendship, an "amitié" with Charpentier, and emphasizes instead a "pitié" that is quite paternal.
The sentences from Dassoucy that are quoted above may indicate that Marc-Antoine Charpentier was not very good with money. That is, they can be read as evidence that the younger man lacked money because he was profligate. I personally doubt that was the case, because the Guises scarcely would have offered their protection to such a person. If Charpentier lacked bread, was it because he found himself without a patron, without a master? Or because he was serving a master who was not tending to the material needs of his servants? This master could have been in Rome, like Longueville. Or he (or she?) may have been in far-off Paris. This eventuality calls to mind one of the letters that Charles Le Brun, who was studying in Rome in the 1640s, penned to his protector, Chancellor Pierre Séguier:
De Rome, ce 12e décembre 1644
Je supplie humblement Votre Grandeur d'agréer que je lui fasse une très humble requête qui est qu'après avoir été ici quelque temps sans argent ... je me suis endetté, si bien qu'ayant payé mes dettes d'une partie de l'argent qu'il a plu à Votre Grandeur m'envoyer, et m'étant fait faire quelques habits pour passer mon hiver, il me reste fort peu dudit argent; et ayant envie de m'en aller à Venise pour y pouvoir étudier commodément, je prends la hardiesse d'importuner Votre Grandeur en la suppliant très humblement de ne me point abandonner en ce besoin et de me faire la grâce de m'envoyer quelque argent ...
That Le Brun dared pen this request speaks more eloquently of his desperate financial situation than do the carefully chosen words with which he apologizes for his hardiesse. Over a year later, the artist was still short of money. Having decided to return to France, but "n'ayant point d'argent pour ce faire, je fus contraint d'en emprunter de mes amis ... tant pour m'habiller que pour faire mondit voyage." From Lyon he therefore once again begged Séguier "de m'assister de ses libéralités accoutumées, afin de me donner moyen de m'acquitter tant de la dépense que j'ai faite en mondit voyage que de celle dont j'ai besoin de faire encore jusqu'à Paris."
So may it have been with Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
Dassoucy sketches a very brief psychological portrait of the composer, whose weaknesses he claims to have known only too well. Charpentier, he says, had "les ventricules du cerveau fort endommagés." He was a "fol à plaindre," an "original." "Fol": Furetière defines this word as indicating an "insensé qui a perdu l'esprit, la raison, le jugement," or, more loosely, a man who is "mal-avisé, étourdi, crédule." Is it not the second definition that Dassoucy had in mind? He states clearly that Charpentier was not a "fol à lier," that is, he was not the sort of person one would expect to find in one of the Parisian insane asylums.
Instead, Dassoucy portrays Marc-Antoine Charpentier as imbibing artistic nourishment from the breast of one of the inventors of the comédie en musique. Thumbing once again through Furetière's dictionary, we see that "nourrir" not only means "fournir les alimens nécessaires pour entretenir la vie," it means "élever, former, instruire, [et...] on dit aussi qu'on a nourri un serpent dans son sein, quand on a élévé un ingrat, qui rend le mal pour le bien, qui tâche à perdre son bienfaiteur." In other words, if Dassoucy's statements are read on the two levels so characteristic of this poet's style, they indicate that the older man played a part in Charpentier's musical formation, or even in his theatrical experience. That he raised him musically, shaped him, instructed him. In short, Dassoucy is implying that he saw Charpentier often over the space of a year — that is, from approximately November 1666 until November 1667 at the latest. If Marc-Antoine was "breadless" at some point, it must therefore have been during this twelve-month period.
Dassoucy's own purse was, of course, virtually empty during most of these twelve months! If Pierrotin's behavior was as extravagant as Dassoucy claims, the poet could offer only a modicum of "bread" to another needy musician after January 1667, though nothing prevented him from pouring out his "pity" in abundance. If Dassoucy was not speaking figuratively, and if he actually took Marc-Antoine Charpentier in or fed him for days or weeks on end, or loaned him money, he must have done this before December 1666, when Pierrotin arrived and supposedly plunged his one-time master into debt.
We can therefore surmise that Charpentier's purse became empty shortly after his arrival in Rome, perhaps because his traveling companion had continued on his way, leaving Charpentier behind to cast about for a way of keeping body and soul together. Was this need for "bread" related to the Duke Longueville? It seems to coincide with the very months when Longueville was flitting about Rome, seeking a suitable lodging and spending most of his cash on cassocks and pilgrimages. As the Duke's purse began to empty, the members of his entourage surely inserted remarks about neglect into the accounts of their master's escapades that they submitted each week to Chaulnes. Rather than humiliate these men by giving them alms as if they were so many beggars, did Chaulnes hire them now and then, claiming that his regular staff was overworked? We don't know. The sources only tell us that the ambassador did what he could to keep his honest compatriots from begging, so that he would not have to include otherwise he would include them among the French-born "fainéants" or "filoux" whom he regularly expelled from the city lest they dishonor France. In short, regardless of the cause of Charpentier's empty purse, if the Farnese deemed him to be neither lazy nor a rascal, it is quite possible that the Farnese eventually came to his rescue and paid him a minimum to copy documents or sing or run errands.
All things considered, we can surmise that the friendship between the young composer and the aging poet began well before the Carnival season of 1667, when Dassoucy was putting his talents to work for the Duke of Chaulnes. This suggests that Dassoucy's "nurturing" of Charpentier took place late in 1666 and for the better part of 1667. Did it take the form of an theatrical apprenticeship at the Farnese? Did Dassoucy "nurture" Charpentier's bent for the burlesque? And his vocal skills as a haute-contre? If Molière risked his troop's future on Charpentier in 1672, was it because he knew that Charpentier had worked with Dassoucy in Rome? It is tempting to answer "yes" to all these questions, because the sources reveal that a person called "Carpentier" was working at the Farnese, was in touch with the costume and livery makers of Rome and came to Abbé Le Tellier's rescue in the fall of 1667.
We have met Abbé Le Tellier, who reached Rome on November 4, 1667. Ambassador Chaulnes immediately offered his illustrious guest an apartment in one of the palaces near the Farnese where important French visitors passing through Rome were lodged. To help Le Tellier learn the etiquette of the papal court, Chaulnes assigned Abbé de Machault to advise him and instructed Ugo Maffei to see to Le Tellier's lodgings and physical comforts and to help Machault guide the young ecclesiastic through the maze of papal protocol. To furnish the apartment for the three months that Le Tellier planned to be in Rome, Maffei turned to some "Jews" who rented furniture. With the help of a member of the papal household, he obtained a suitably elegant coach, purchased horses and hired ten Italian servants. Since most of Christina's servants were idle and short of money, did Maffei, on Dalibert's suggestion, borrow the Queen's idle and unpaid domestics?
Maffei's next task was to provide livery for these servants — and to do it as quickly as possible, because Le Tellier was eager to begin the visits that would win for him the bulls of a bishopric or an archbishopric. It was common practice to invent, post haste, a "livery" for foreigners who were passing through Italy. For example, when the Bishop of Marseille had an audience with the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1673:
Il fit habiller de la livrée de parade les deux laquais français qu'il avoit amenez de Marseille, un Suisse, le cocher et le postillon, et je pris trois estaffiers italiens que j'habillay de mes couleurs pour faire honneur à l'ambassade. Il y avoit 4 abbez, 4 gentilshommes, un escuyer et huit valets de cuisine et toutte sa vaisselle d'argent de laquelle il se servoit dans la route.
To provide Le Tellier's new servants with a somewhat less makeshift livery, Maffei turned to a man whom the people at the Farnese called "Carpentier." If an Italian saw the name "Charpentier" in writing and was asked to pronounce it, he doubtlessly would say "Carpentier"; and if he heard the name and had to jot it down on paper, the result would approximate "Ciarpantier." In other words, there was a Frenchman at the Farnese who was named either Charpentier or Carpentier.
Carpentier promptly contacted his "correspondents," a term that suggests that this individual was at the time acting as a middle-man between Maffei and a handful of Roman shopkeepers and artisans: hat-makers, cloth-sellers, tailors, sword-and cross-belt renters and quite probably used- clothing dealers. The livery (which Mafei deemed "nobile" and "bella") was ready within days of the Abbé's arrival. Six weeks later, Le Tellier — who made a point of "always speaking in Italian," therefore probably heard Carpentier's name spoken by Maffei, made this entry into his account book:
le 29 decem pour les estoffes de mes
livrées aux correspondants de Carpentier j'ay quittance
j'ay fait payer 62 p. d'Esp.
aux dists marchands le mesme joür
pour les estoffes et marchandises j'ay quittance
qu'ils m'ont fournyes 52 p. d'Esp.
Note that Le Tellier received signed receipts from the merchants and correspondents, but not from "Carpentier" himself. Was "Carpentier" actually Marc-Antoine Charpentier? Despite the prestigious names that had graced his second sister's wedding contract only a few years earlier, and despite the fact that his Sevin cousins were able to purchase offices and live quite elegantly, Charpentier would scarcely have felt demeaned by running from one clothseller to another: for his eldest sister Etiennette was a lingère and his younger brother was an apprentice engraver. Nor should the absence of an h in "Carpentier's" name cause us to dismiss this hypothesis out of hand. One has to be very stubborn indeed to insist on pronouncing one's name in a foreign country the way one would at home! Had Charpentier begun to pronounce his name Italian-style? (He certainly could not drop the h, which would have invalidated not only his signature but his passport.) Then too, Maffei transformed every French name into something more comfortable for his native tongue: Retz became "Rez" or "Rex"; Bourlemont became "Burlemont," Le Tellier became "de Tegli," Machaut became "Mancio," Harcour became "Arcurt" and Dalibert became "Daribert." If, in their Italian conversations, Maffei kept telling Le Tellier about what "Carpentier" was doing for him, how was the Abbé to deduce the exact spelling of his compatriot's name? Did he therefore write down what he heard? And since he clearly did not hear "Ciarpantier," did he conclude that the young man spelled his name without an h?
The possibility that Marc-Antoine Charpentier was the "Carpentier" who helped Maffei is very appealing. If Carpentier was dealing with "correspondents" who sold cloth and made clothes, was it not because he was readying the costumes for the "comédies en musique" that the French ambassador was planning for Carnival of 1668. To obtain these costumes — or the livery that Le Tellier required — did Carpentier first talk to Jacques Dalibert? Dalibert was not only a master at this sort of venture: he was famed for his negotiations with the "Jews" of the city and his success at preparing costumes and decorations at minimal cost.
Quand [Dalibert] vouloit habiller ses gens de livrée, il avoit mille inventions pour cela avec les Juifs, sans jamais debourcer de l'argent comptant; tantôt il troquoit une chose, & tantôt l'autre, enfin le Chevalier de l'industrie n'en sçavoit pas plus que lui.
Was Carpentier's chief "correspondent" Dalibert or one of his
cronies? Did the pair supply Le Tellier with a livery that cost them
considerably less than the 104 pistolles the Abbé was billed?
Dassoucy — who probably was involved in preparing these theatrical events for the coming Carnival season — clearly was aware of the project in which Maffei had involved Carpentier. In mid- November he offered Le Tellier a poem that included these lines, to which italics have been added for emphasis:
Soyez le bienvenu dans Rome
Tout votre train, gros & menu,
Et sur le cheval de somme
Qui porte vostre revenu.[...]
Quoy donc, ce traisnant equipage
Qui met tant d'esprits à l'envers
Ne vous a pas fait plus sauvage!
Quoy! joignant à vostre potage
Entre dix ou douze couverts,
La bonne cher au bon visage,
Vous recevez à bras ouverts [...]
With his usual double-entendres, the poet is alluding to the newly hired Italian servants and to the money that Le Tellier had spent on the "traisnant equipage" that accompanied him from palace to palace. Dassoucy also evokes the banquets that the illustrious visitor offered various prelates and Frenchmen who were passing through Rome. In November 1667, Abbé Le Tellier was indeed holding banquets in his apartment near the Farnese. On several of these evenings, Dassoucy sang for him. In one of the poems that he presented to the Abbé, he writes: "vous qui m'avez commandé de vous voir chaque jour." Every day! Dassoucy also recounts how, when he knocked at Le Tellier's door the morning after his first performance, the Abbé did not associate the tired and shabbily dressed man on his doorstep as the well-dressed musician who had charmed his guests only a few hours earlier:
Ce seigneur splendide, et genereux, me commanda de l'aller voir le lendemain à son lever, mais le Ciel qui m'apprestoit bien d'autres disgraces, ne permit pas que je profitasse de cette heureuse rencontre, car il se chargea de tant de nuages, et fit tant pleuvoir ce matin-là, que pour m'accomoder au mauvais temps, ayant quitté un fort bel habit noir, pour prendre un mechant habit gris, mon malheur voulut que je ne fusse pas reconnu de ce genereux Seigneur dans cet habit gris, et le lendemain le voulant faire rire de ma disgrace, je luy porté cette Epigramme ...
"Le jour après, suivant l'intention que j'avois de le divertir," continues Dassoucy, "je luy portai [un] autre Epigrame." Several days later, as he was on his way home from presenting the Abbé with a "requeste burlesque" in which he begged the "Grand Tellier" to "mettre un peu dedans ma tirelire," Dassoucy was arrested and taken off to the prisons of the Inquisition. This took place during the final days of November or in early December 1667. Le Tellier promptly replaced Dassoucy with a "maistro Italien" [sic].
We have seen that Dassoucy's arrest did not oblige Chaulnes to cancel the "comédies en musique" that his staff was preparing in Le Tellier's honor. No indeed, preparations continued; when the Abbé was granted his bulls and announced that he was leaving Rome well before Carnival, everyone was therefore very upset. They insisted that Le Tellier remain, because "tout le Carnaval, l'on esperoit le divertir de quelques comédies en musique." (Were the people at the Farnese using the term "comédies en musique" loosely? Or was that what Dassoucy, the inventor of the genre, was calling the work in progress?) By dint of urging his staff to work overtime, Chaulnes managed to entertain the Abbé with a "petite comédie" and — on the eve of his departure — a "comédie" and a grand fête.
If Ambassador Chaulnes managed to get along without Dassoucy, it clearly was because someone was there to take over for him. Will a diplomatic dispatch one day reveal that the replacement was the chap whom the Romans at the Farnese called "Carpentier"? In other words, was it at the Farnese Palace — beside the poet-musician who had "nurtured him at his breast" — that Marc-Antoine Charpentier learned the craft of composing for the theater?
The isolated allusion to "Carpentier," without a first name, does not permit me to assert such a thing. We do however know that Dassoucy had been coming to the French embassy for well over a year, that he had been going there "every day" in November 1667, and that he was following closely the chores that Carpentier was doing for Le Tellier. We also know that Carpentier was "corresponding," that is, was in contact with Roman tailors and costumers. Scanty though it be, this evidence suggests that Dassoucy and Charpentier were both employed by the Farnese in the fall of 1667. Nor does this brief sketch of Dassoucy's adventures and Le Tellier's visit to Rome prove that "Carpentier" was anything more than a costumer or tailor. Still, even though this narrative of the events of 1666 and 1667 is built upon highly circumstantial evidence, it may help researchers shape their inquiries into Charpentier's Roman years.
Sources: Archives des Affaires Etrangères, Rome, 179-185; Dassoucy's Rimes redoublés, (Paris, 1672), pp. 52, 58-60, 632-63, 65, 75, 132-34; and ed. of 1721*, p. 120; Le Tellier's records of his trip, at B.N., ms. fr. 20746, especially fols. 108-120; Maffei's correspondence with Créquy, B.N., ms. ital. 509; and two modern works on Dassoucy, the first Prunières "Les aventures de Dassoucy," which appeared in three issues of La Revue musicale for 1938; and the Charles E. Scruggs, Charles D'Assoucy, Adventures in the Age of Louis XIV (Lanham MD: Univ. Press of America, 1984)