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Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Jacob Soll on Amelot de la Houssaye on Machiavelli on Tacitus

"... Amelot's editions of Tacitus and Baltasar Graciàn are facades that cover the carefully constructed edifice of his own political thought" (p. 10). What an intriguing project. Some years back I read Amelot in Florence while at the Villa Spelman and was surprised by how "classical republican" it seemed.

The idea of joining the history of the book with the study of political thought is very attractive to me. I think of Volpilhac-Auger's great thematic analysis as a model in this vein, with her showing how the history of editions reveals a shift from a preference for Livy in the seventeenth century, to one for Tacitus in the eighteenth. Studying Amelot's editions and translations seems to be a prism to refract this shift, at least partly measure it, and partly account for it.

Claims to reveal secrets almost invariably appear in that remarkable genre of the "how-to" book that, from the second quarter of the sixteenth century, would make available in print virtually every "science," every skill, every trade. Akin to, but distinct from it, is the pedagogical literature, the mirrors of princes, the institutions, the editions of letters and embassies such as Cardinal du Perron's of 1623 edited by his secretary, the remarkable diplomatic correspondence in Jean Le Laboureur's life of Guébriant, and the five volumes of Richelieu's correspondence of 1667. And it is interesting to recall that the first part of the title of the work of 1668 known as Richelieu's Political Testament is "Maximes d'Estat." The desire to participate in the affairs of state, particularly in diplomatic affairs, is evident in and through countless texts, not always passive but often "critical" for readers throughout the century. Participation in the affairs of state, in and through diplomatic service, was a major feature in humanist culture down through the centuries. As in the Church, there were careers open in diplomacy for the young, beautiful, and eloquent lover of languages, history, politics. Ambassadors usually were of high noble rank, but virtually everyone else was either common or simply noble. Amelot's market consisted of these people, hopefuls for royal service.

The 5,000-plus pamphlets printed in Paris during the Fronde complemented the Gazette at various times. The relation moved from being essentially a diplomatic genre to a travel and visit one, while translations of classic works and the preparation of critical editions were understood as rendering service to the king and the "public." In the later-seventeenth-century learned culture with which I am familiar, translation was usually one exercise, and the preparation of an edition something else. From the illustrations of Amelot's pages in this book, it is obvious that Soll ignores or breaks down this boundary. An innovation? More of a continuity from earlier practices?

The association of Machiavelli and Tacitus is something of a lieu in early-modern historiography. Justifiers of coups d'État such as Henry III's execution of the Guises and the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, sought some support for their actions in the high, indeed the highest idea that the state could do no wrong, by an interpretation of, or an appeal to the thought of Tacitus and Machiavelli. I think of Pibrac at this point, so learned, so "moral," and yet he defended the massacre on St Bartholomew's Day. Arcana Imperii and divine-right absolutism seem to go hand in glove in Naudé's Coups d'État.

Just when and how that reading of Tacitus and Machiavelli became displaced by a classical republican one is certainly where Amelot comes in. Would there be a shift from Sejanus, who by circa 1600 was already an exemplum of tyranny, to Tiberius? A shift from elucidating how evil ministers-councilors tick, to how princes do, may have been partly Amelot's doing. The preface quoted by Soll (p. 13) suggests what a lumper Amelot could be. What is the relation between Amelot's "chapters" and the books of the Annals? And from "political thought" (p. 10) Amelot is then to have "political philosophy" (p. 13). Reading about critical reading perhaps makes me still more of a critical reader than I usually am.

How splendid! Tacitus dressed in Renaissance clothing (p. 19). It reminds one of the magnificent passages in Machiavelli. He takes off his country clothing and dons ancient dress, presumably a toga, before taking up his thinking and writing.

Attractive as it is, Gauchet's general thesis prompts questions: his late-medieval France is too monolithic. But I do not want to be diverted from the topics at hand. Generally speaking, Bodin in the Methodus attempts to analyze works by writers of history. I am not certain that he perceives these as "documents" in the sense a jurist might, or that he would later when he turned to essentially legal sources. Bodin's section on the passions and morals reveals a broad, eclectic reading after displaying an awareness of the literature and law about dissimulation. His exploration of all historians writing about the Italian Wars leads him to an approach to finding out what happened by escaping "national" perspectives. I do not recall that he is as eager to have all this applied to politics as were most humanists, who argued that this is the purpose of history. Surely there is an engaged political person, Bodin, at work here; but in the Methodus he is more epistemological.

As I began to read Soll on Jean du Tillet's service as a researcher for the Crown, Joseph Strayer's article on Philip the Fair and his lawyers came to mind. The centuries-old tensions with the papacy over the rights of the Gallican Church prompted reflection, research, argument, prudence. Paul Saenger's article on resistance theory in the writings sustaining the Burgundian dukes against the Crown, shows that those texts are also partly historical, that is, precedent-driven, as was the case in Gallicanism. There is a passage in Richelieu's Political Testament that refers to needing help from the learned in the form of research on matters of conflict with Rome. The Cardinal did not usually think immediately of historical precedents: his arguments are usually more abstract. But not on Franco-Roman relations. And all along, efforts were being made to make public these historically grounded arguments. Du Tillet's and Dupuy's big works on the subject are digging still deeper historical furrows already made. Similar projects grounded royal rights in history over provincial, town, and, yes, family pretensions to powers that antedated the royal charters granting those powers. The "time immemorial" argument became mere rhetoric once royal jurists began redacting customary laws in the sixteenth century. Pace, Hotman and Tacitus on Germany. Even elements of the "mythical" Salic law were vacuumed up and made into history by the jurists.

A jurist is someone who researches and argues for the Crown, period (W.F. Church). Attempts to ground noble rights in the mists of time would preoccupy many in the eighteenth century (cf. Franz Neuman's brilliant Introduction to Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws), but here again the jurists cut them off at the pass. True, "esprit" sounds as if it is more profoundly correct about a law than what the law simply says (pace, Bartolus; but although the very exciting extension of the Aristotelian model of forms of government to various laws and manners and regimes, may have helped inspire revolution, it would not hold up in a court of law!

When I came to Lipsius and Tacitus, Montaigne's devastating critique of Lipsius came to mind. I include it here because it says something about the use of quotations in the Politicorum. Michèle Fogel summarizes Montaigne thusly in her biography of Marie de Gournay (p. 137): "Mais ensuite Montaigne avait lu les Politiques [de Lipsius]: ce n'était pas l'ouvrage qu'il avait espéré. Il cantonnait ce 'docte et laborieux tissu' au rôle de réservoir de citations: 'pastissages de lieux communs, de quoi tant de gens ménagent leur étude' qui 'servent à nous montrer, non à nous conduire.' "

One might remark: "Look who is writing! The Essais are a labyrinth of quotations! I am not sure that Lipsius sought to limit or circumscribe the possible interpretations of quotations any more than Montaigne did, but the two men have a relation to the "authority" of an ancient that is somewhat similar to Machiavelli's in the Discourses. Will Amelot's Tacitus belong to this "genre"?

Sarpi was certainly aware of Gallican writings on this history of the Church (I do not have Bouwsma here at Panat), but there was a rich and flourishing "history" of Italy defending the rights of towns and city states against the Church. Valla's critical perspective was pretty indigenous. To be sure, being anti-papal so often meant being pro-imperial; but out of the Humanist movement in Italy a critical historical perspective became articulated well before Sarpi, perhaps incorporating Gallican findings.

And so we come to public prudence. I shall not explore the problem of whether a text written for the "eyes of the prince alone" was for the public. This is a serious and difficult question. In his Institutions Budé addresses Francis I on prudence, and it would seem that he would also firmly support the "constitution," that the king acts on matters of state only in council. But then, exhortations to be prudent may be found in mirrors of princes throughout the fifteenth century, and probably much before. (Prudence's image in a tapestry, mirror in hand, comes immediately to mind.) It would be interesting to look through Oresme's translation of the Politics to find the words he chose to capture phronesis and judicium (mainly the latter, certainly). Marc Fumaroli's pages on the subject in Éloquence are about jugement. For the theme prudence, we lack the type of study that Gene Rice did on wisdom. Certainly when prudence is recommended by Commynes, it would not be the same as the Tacitus-inspired prudence found in Amelot, but just how they differed, and the fields of thought that each inspired, remains mysterious to me.

Guicciardini, a reader of Tacitus, Machiavelli, but I had thought that Guicciardini's prudence was grounded more on personal experience and observation, thereby becoming cunning and cynical on his own. Not Tacitus's. Are we sure he read the Discourses?

Christian Jouhaud's remark (cited on p. 48) to the effect that Richelieu did not see ahead regarding the consequences of reason and history, seems attractive at first. It suggests that 1789 resulted from a welling-up of philosophy against a regime grounded on historical fact. This is probably too abstract a level for understanding both Enlightenment and 1789. The idea is more suggestive if we move it to 1793! Then the work of Harold Parker (revolution as recovery of ancient Roman virtue) and Dale Van Kley (religious thought) come immediately to mind. History and myth, not philosophy and myth in 1789?

Of Richelieu's Tacitism there is no doubt. His way of thinking and acting through maxims was certainly more Tacitean than it was mere commonplace-collecting and writing. But never did the Cardinal see any possible conflict between Providence and action taken by the state on a matter of state. Scruples he had, and he could be casuistic too; but he believed himself to be acting ethically too, as W.F. Church and F. Hildesheimer have so carefully established. And Corneille's synthesis of divine right and might has Machiavelli's mark on it (Georges Couthon).

Yes, one can "marvel at the subtlety of Colbert's awareness of the culture of politics" (p. 52). The Fronde had been an experience that sharpened the eye (Xenophon). The scene was covered with wrecks of men who practiced the art of politics to the hilt, and who lost. Retz, Condé, La Rochefoucauld, Bouillon, Broussel, Turenne, and so many others were losers; Le Tellier, Colbert, Foucquet, Louis XIV, Anne, and Mazarin were winners. After the Wars of Religion and Henry IV's assassination, a climate of self-censorship (R. Schneider) had set in which lasted until broken by Balzac and Richelieu and his stable. After 1651 panegyric and historical research became institutionalized under Colbert's direction. There was a literalness about Colbert's thinking and his understanding of the political culture centered in the prince. Fumaroli remarks somewhere that the virtue of the ancient Roman people became incarnate in the prince, and nothing could be done to recover that earlier arrangement where virtue was assembled in citizens. Virgil celebrated the fact; Tacitus sought to create an intelligent, cynical, and distant attitude toward it. Some bookseller proposed manuscripts of the missing books of the Annals, and Colbert prepared to pay a huge sum for them. Alas, whatever the manuscripts were, they were not Tacitus. But just what did Colbert do to attempt to suppress the Tacitean movement? (p. 60).

It is interesting to compare Amelot with someone such as Sorbière, who translated Thomas More and Thomas Hobbes into French. Sorbière included a longish comment on the problems posed for the translator by Hobbes's thought. Differences come to mind immediately. Sorbière, for example, did not pick all his authors from the same political-historical furrow. Having married, he eventually took orders, etc.; but like Amelot he got into trouble with foreign authorities, in his case English. The pensions and benefices he received were owed perhaps more to his conversion to Catholicism than to his learning.

Yes, Du Tillet held an important office in the state; the Godefroys were like the other historiographers royal, serving in the royal household at the prince's pleasure. The difference is important. But the tradition of naming learned researchers to work for the Crown did not end with Colbert's death. The royal librarians ­ among them Bignon ­ and the members of the Académie des Inscriptions kept digging away and publishing historical documents. I do not know who was advising the French ambassador to the pope when Unigenitus was being drafted. Perhaps the French were not consulted by a quite firm (understatement!) pope. Kings had requested help from Rome many times before, and many times in the past there had been Gallican cries of outrage; but something went drastically wrong, so wrong that no amount of historical fact would dissipate the parties.

Publishing treaties is very much in line with the general movement of printers to make all knowledge available for sale! And claims about publishing secret matters is part of the sales pitch. True, in "how-to" books ­ how to dye cloth, for example­ secrets really were sometimes revealed. As for treaties, most of these materials were available in the Mercure or the Gazette, or the Gazette de Hollande. There is the famous incident where Louis XIV pulled out his copy of the Gazette de Hollande before a Dutch diplomat who was about to report to him officially what the king had already read. CNN comes to mind.

Historians of the book do not take the BN catalogue as authoritative or complete: it is useful for huge soundings such as H-J Martin's, but for a single work or a single author it must be supplemented by other catalogues. The British Library often has an edition or two that the BN lacks, and this is understandable when one thinks of the Dutch influence on publishing, and the British market. On p. 70 of Soll there appears a summary about the publishing of the Discourses, but I do not recall a discussion of the number of editions, circa 1600. I must go back and check.

In order to demonstrate shifts in readership, or the influences of an author or a book, just be brief, comparisons must be made. We don't learn how Livy was doing, or Suetonius. There is rigor in history-of-the-book studies. On publications of Tacitus, drawing on Volpilhac-Auger's thesis certainly would have moved what is assertion to certitude.

Numerous big shifts occurred from the first half to the second half of the seventeenth century, as Martin has shown with precision. Sarpi yielded Gallican support, and that is primarily the way he was read. Calling it "reason of state" makes the phrase pretty vague. I guess there was an opportunity for publishing political thought after the Fronde. A lot of readers wanted to read other types of works: there had been enough politics for awhile, which helps explain the panegyrical mood of the 1660s.

Six weeks in the Bastille? That's pretty short (p. 69). It placated the Venetian ambassador. Then, on p. 75, we find Amelot in the Bastille again, for six months, and in the same year.

Censorship in the reign of Louis XIV has been explored by various scholars. It is difficult to generalize, because La Reynie's actions were not the same as d'Argenson's. But very generally, religious matters and lewdness were in for review and repression, not politics. The rise of anti-court literature brought religion and politics together, just as it had in the reign of Henry III. It would do so again in the 1780s. The semantic space between divine-right monarchy and tyranny remained very great until religious factionalism brought them together. Jansenists and Huguenots were doing their best to support Dutch propaganda against the king. Amelot's intervention through Tacitus and Gratiàn was a deeper, more piercing critique, because it: 1) proposed the individual's increase in understanding not just Louis but kingship in general; 2) there is an astute synthesizing or encapsulating of a venerable perspective on tyranny; 3) there is an understanding of the mechanisms at work in the book market, and how these are refracted in the political culture. Performing ethical work and getting rich on it was the best in Léonard's world!

Discourse about tyrants may be found all across the country. Richelieu was accused of it, and so was Mazarin. Just when did the discourses about regicide and tyrannicide come together? Perhaps they never did. The former probably collapsed in the 1620s, to leave the charge of tyranny ­ a charge usually coming from authors in the pay of princes (1613-1617, 1650-51), headed by a Condé. A close reading of Jeffrey Sawyer would have strengthened the analysis here. And Graciàn's L'Homme de Cour was dedicated to Louis XIV and, by Amelot's death in 1706, had appeared in 9 different editions. Who were the censors? Nancy Struever often refers to politicians whose views she abhors as "... to the right of Genghis Khan." I note this, because Soll gives evidence to suggest that the French "reader" in the 1680s could not read about Tiberius without thinking of Louis XIV, or read Graciàn's advice about "how to succeed at court" (that is how L'Homme de Cour was probably read) without thinking of Versailles. I seem contentious here, but this helps to understand the critical distance between Bayle's readers, Amelot's readers, and the rest of the French reading population. Jansenist and Huguenot contestation would continue to mine the political culture of the panegyrical post-Fronde. Wars, particularly defeats, royal age, and Unigenitus ­ which brought Jansenists and a lot of parlementaires together in a critical, alienated mood ­ helped make a place for what must now be called the classical-republican critique of monarchy. The Regent's laisser faire, and the almost biological-natural hopes for renewal that came with a new reign, prompted a calming down of political debate.

Soll's account of the political culture late in the reign is almost anachronistic, in the sense that he perceives moods and climates that did not occur until the Jesuits had been routed out of the kingdom. There are also chronological jumps: for example, the assertion that by the "mid-seventeenth century Catholic scholars counterattacked Protestantism and Spinozist atheism ..." (p. 92). But Spinoza did not publish much of anything until 1662, and prior to that his thought scarcely reached beyond a small circle. We read on p. 91: "In retrospect, it seems extraordinary that as late as 1713, Louis and the Church believed they could turn the tide of personal reading that had been furthered by the explosive invention of the printing press and the rise of humanist reading and personalized piety. J. Klaits's work on propaganda late in the reign is not in the bibliography, nor are J. Rule's important articles about Torcy. Soll has become a convert to Amelot's way of thinking, so much so that perhaps he is not grasping the inertia and force of political culture in the Ancien Régime. Not quite anachronistic, but remaining on the level of assertion, there is no mention of the old king's successful appeal to his subjects in a war he was losing. The Sun King is a bit of a caricature in Soll's work. That's okay, I guess; Apostolides does the same; and in his La Fontaine, Fumaroli flaunts his Libertarianism (see Orest's review of Le Poète et le Roi) in a way that does not quite reach the dilemma of being loyal to a disgraced friend and yet managing a political-cultural distance from the king while remaining a loyal subject. Again, almost anachronistic.

Amelot's passion for piling up references to Tacitus may be interpreted in different ways. The climate of suspicion, if not quite paranoia (one thinks of Richard Hofstadter's later work) and the reflection inspired by readers of Tacitus and of reason-of-state literature, often extends beyond the claims to knowledge that are made in the genre of the "how-to book." Critical reading, and reading between the lines, offer insights into all this, but I prefer what Amelot might have inferred had he pondered more deeply Cicero's Dialogue des Orateurs. The relation between types of eloquence and forms of government seems to me to be a deeper, more satisfying approach to understanding this historical moment. I have pulled down Fumaroli's Éloquence from the shelves of our meager library here, and I quote him to frame the way the exploration of the relations between rhetorics and politics was carried out in the eighteenth century:

Car il s'agit moins d'obtenir, comme dans l'éloquence judiciaire ou civique, un effet immédiat et pratique, que de faire naître une résonance à long terme, d'une nature tout intérieure, à la fois esthétique et spirituelle. Voilée par l'ironie chez Horace, déployée dans le vaste champ élégiaque et épique par Virgile, la doctrine du sublime avait été utilisée par Sénèque aux fins de la conversion philosophique. Elle retrouve dans le Dialogue des Orateurs son sens de justification de l'art et de la beauté, médiateurs entre la philosophie et la Cité. Mais elle ne la retrouve pas pour constater et célébrer la 'plénitude des temps', comme chez Virgile: l'Origine ne se réactualise plus ailleurs que dans l'âme de l'écrivain et dans celle de son lecteur, tous deux en exil; l'art de Tacite vise à rendre plus pénétrant et plus universel le contraste implicite et allusif entre la déchéance des temps qu'il décrit et la splendeur de l'Age d'or qui s'éloigne, entre la grandeur solitaire des âmes fidèles et le reniement des autres.

L'histoire concile ainsi l'héritage en déshérance de Cicéron et celui de Virgile avec l'ardente prédication d'un Sénèque et d'un Lucain. Elle est chargée par Tacite d'une magistrature morale et religieuse qui, par le détour de l'art, supplée sans l'offenser la magistrature politique du Prince, toujours tenté de trahir le devoir que lui avaient fixé Auguste et Virgile: celui de résumer en sa personne et son action la vertue romaine désertée par le peuple romain. Dans un style qui condense les prestiges de la prose oratoire et ceux de la poésie romaines, l'histoire selon Tacite tend à la Ville déchue et à ses Princes à la fois un miroir et un piège, leçon pour eux si possible, témoignage en tout cas pour une élite de grandes âmes et pour le plus lointain avenir. Seul saint Augustin, dans la Cité de Dieu, portera sur l'histoire un effet aussi 'sublime'. (pp. 68-69)

The relation between the sublime and the emotions unleashed by critical reading, individual and reflective, cannot be explored here. But Amelot's synthesis of civic engagement, maxim mania, and the need to live, brought him to actions in editing and commenting that approached Tacitus's prose and released it from centuries of uninspired and pedantically inspired reading. Jean Starobinski's article on understanding prose and forms of government pulls all this together. (Jean Starobinski, "Éloquence et Liberté," Revue suisse d'Histoire, 26 (1976), 549-559.)

Mel Richter's work on despotism comes into play here. Is there absolutist tyranny? The harem in The Persian Letters and the chief eunuch's power make the flattering world of Versailles seems bland. An excité such as Saint-Simon felt psychologically constrained, indeed somewhat enslaved by Versailles. And as far as censorship is concerned, the criminal behavior of the Crown in its attempts to silence Vauban and destroy the Dîme Royale certainly confirms the charge that government could be tyrannical. Giving Amelot royal permission to publish classical-republican texts with commentary does not.

Amelot's annotations for The Prince (p. 100) are revealing about the extent of his reading. The "Chevalier de Temple" is mentioned (he is not in the index.). This must be Sir William Temple: according to Moréri's Dictionnaire, the works of "Guillaume Temple, chevalier baronet," were being translated into French by the early 1670s. Amelot could therefore have been citing them by 1683. Interesting.

Coming to the end of this review, the question arises of Amelot's place in the history of political thought, and of learned culture in general. He was certainly no Lipsius or Scaliger. Perhaps the most revealing point on this was his ability to work out a "not particularly classical republican edition of The Prince" (p. 101). Amelot called the results "raison d'État de soi-même." His attempts to make the work seem inspired by reading Tacitus seem sincere and are perhaps a measure of him as a scholar: somewhat limited. He did glimpse, however, the range in the political spectrum of Machiavelli, and that was hard for anyone to do in the seventeenth century.

Bayle's reception of Amelot, and the presentation of his project, are among the most thoughtful and engaging accounts in the book. The esprit de critique had fairly circumscribed limits for Amelot, whereas Bayle's seems to have been without limits. Fumaroli notes how Tacitus did not favor a synthesis of political and literary rhetorics and modes of discourse. Perhaps this distinction helps clarify what Amelot was: civic-minded, or political, while Bayle was literary in the Humanist, learned sense.

As for using commentary, the activist political writer owes more to Machiavelli than to Tacitus. The latter is a most remarkable writer in various prose genres, but he is not a commentator in the way Machiavelli is a commentator of Livy. Machiavelli's freedom from Livy's text is what amazes, as does Amelot's freedom from Tacitus. And Tacitus's strength is his ability to navigate in and through various forms of government, whereas Machiavelli and Amelot press to categorize actions as one or the other, by genre. The ancestor of almost all political thinking which is not decisive about one form of government or another, is of course Aristotle. He favors a mixed constitution; he favors monarchy when monarchs are intelligent. He would have been appalled by the crushing conformities of ancient republican Rome, just as he was not enamored of Sparta.

On the photographed page of the Annales, the example Amelot gives for why new princes should avoid "titres odieux," is Pope Paul II, who wanted to take the name Formose, "parce qu'il était bien fait," after which Amelot goes on listing indecent things for a pope to do. And as Platine reports: "Il se fardait et se parait comme une femme" (p. 112) I am not familiar with the scholarship about pope-bashing, but this smells of the world of the personal attack grounded on innuendo about sexual orientation. There may be more anti-clericalism in Amelot than Soll has suggested in his general analysis.

The suggestion that readers as different as Richelieu and Montesquieu read different versions of The Prince is a brilliant proposal for further general research on the reception of Machiavelli. Soll's observations about Voltaire's reading, and Diderot's, are illuminating, and the remarks about Meinières would also apply to Le Paige's notes, etc., at the Port-Royal Library (p. 124).

Did Gordon's translation of Tacitus depend on Amelot's? As a fellow classical republican, this might help explain Gordon's efforts. When D'Alembert translated Tacitus, he relied on Gordon, not on Amelot. Convinced that the French language had become weak, he perhaps rejected Amelot for this reason and hoped that Tacitus filtered through English would help strengthen French. See my article on Rousseau, D'Alembert, and Diderot as translators of Tacitus. (It was published in the papers of the International Conference on this Enlightenment held in Pisa.) In the Tiberius exemplum, all three seemed eager to convey as much odiousness and fear as possible.

As one reads the last 50 pages of Soll, one senses that he has hit his stride. He has not wanted to present his work as we all were taught in grad school. His vocabulary is not consistent; he declines to work in order to contribute to what political philosophy might be, as distinct from political thought. He mentions recent, usually non-historical literary critics by name, whereas the true pioneers in his subject ­ Momigliano, Franklin, Kelley, Gossman, Martin, Pocock, Gilbert, Etter, Toffanin, and Grafton ­ end up in the notes. Perhaps he is right in this procedure. For my part, I like the names of the pioneers, so I can ponder how their work is summed up or presented critically. I like the way Richard Tuck puts names in parentheses in his Philosophy and Government. Without the pioneers' names, the prose becomes more assertive and seems less analytical. This shocks a bit in a book that celebrates the critical reading mode of Humanist scholarship.

Soll has broken new paths for younger researchers to follow. A beginning would be a close reading of the Amelot commentary, to pull together the whole of Amelot's thought. Here we learn about his mask that does not hide his critique of flattery, and, very important, his grasp of the climate of silence that falls on tyrannical political cultures. Not even Tiberius (I really only recall this) had much to say before the Senate on his last visits. Didn't he just say once," What can I say?" Where were those new clothes? How strange and contradictory. On the one hand the princeps is depicted as highly intelligent and morally criminal. Relying on his memory, he coerces others by threatening to reveal [their] corrupt and morally suspect actions. And while accepting adulation in his "new clothes," he loses touch with the unreal image of himself.

And there is so much continuity in the Ancien Régime. The very learned Étienne Baluze was disgraced and exiled to Tours for what he wrote in his Histoire généalogique de la Maison d'Auvergne! This took place just about a century after De Thou's run-in with the censors. Baluze, like Bignon, belonged in the company of Casaubon, Lipsius, the Scaligers, Fauchet, Pasquier, the Godefroys. Amelot and Bayle tip toward Lacurne de Saint-Palaye, Montesquieu, and Moreau.


A bévue that does not affect the book's findings brought back the memory of a bévue I made in 1968. The first edition of Paris in the Age of Absolutism says that the row of kings on the façade of Notre Dame are French kings. Well, I saw them with my own eyes. The bévue was that in the seventeenth century, that row across the façade had been filled by the kings of Israel! Viollet-le-Duc or one of his staffers had changed the whole program during that nineteenth-century "restoration" of the cathedral.

Soll imaginatively has Amelot walking to work down the rue Saint-Jacques, etc.; and we can "imagine" Soll taking the same walk. But checking the names of bridges and streets might have helped. Or else Amelot took a quite circuitous ramble. The puzzling thing is that the reader can imagine the walk ­ never mind the names of the streets and the bridges (p. 59).

Of course, Amelot could go over the Pont de la Tournelle after coming down the rue Saint-Jacques on his way to the parvis Notre Dame ­ but that is quite a detour ­ and then take the Pont Marie from the parvis to the place de Grève. Again, it could be done after crossing the Pont Rouge to the Ile Saint-Louis, and then taking the Pont Marie; but a more likely trajectory would be to take the Pont Notre-Dame to the Grève. Marie was a "developer," so his family name is only a very distant allusion to "Our Lady." Nor am I sure that the rue du Renard went as far as the rue Geoffroy-l'Angevin (a de Troy lived there!; but no matter).