« ZurückWeiter »
against the one, of profligacy and power; against the other, of profligacy and imbecility; for there is no man so far destitute of common sense as not to see his way in morals.
It is perhaps impossible to penetrate so far into the secrets of those times, as to know with certainty whether Louis the XIII. really loved or hated the Cardinal. No doubt he was sometimes pettish and angry wben any of his courtiers brought to his mind the sorry figure he cut, in the eyes of mankind; but, if he hated Richelieu, he was still more weak and despicable than we think him. On the taking of Rochelle, when our own tyrant, Charles I., betrayed the interests of the religion of his country, the bold and ambitious Cardinal drew upon him the admiration of people of all ranks, and on every side the enthusiastic cry of “ Vive le Grand Cardinal!” was beard. At this moment, when, if ever the envy of the prince was likely to take vent, Louis only said, “Whoever loves him, loves me.”
In perusing the unhappy chronicles of our species, we are often compelled to blush for the race to which we belong, but never so niuch as when we have before our eyes the picture of what men have been degraded to, in courts and palaces. Let the reader linger a moment on the following passage :
«The hatred against the Cardinal was now carried to its highest pitch; no one doubted that it was his intention to open the way to the throne, for his family. Al this moment Louis XIII. fell sick at Lyons, and the courtiers exerted all the force of their hatred around his sick bed to produce the ruin of the Cardinal. The Marshal de Marillac offered to cut him off; the two queens urged the same request with tears and prayers, the only arms of women ; and the Marshal de Bassompiere united his entreaties with theirs. They began to entertain some thoughts of giving way, and the Cardinal to prepare the means of escaping the storm ; but the force of the disorder at length began to abate, the wretched monarch sinks into his usual state of slavery, which he detested but could not escape, and threw hiinself at the feet of the queen-mother to beg forgiveness for his oppressor. 'The Cardinal humbles himself and weeps, promising whatever is required of him, but inwardly determining to listen to his ambition and the thirst of vengeance. The queen-mother, expelled from the court, and shortly after from France itself, soon hastened away to die in grief and misery amongst strangers; the Marshal de Marillac, arrested at the head of his army, was imprisoned in the castle of Ruelle ; was denied the privilege of being tried by his natural judges, while a commission, chosen by the Cardinal, conducted his trial in the very house, and under the eye of his enemy, who, when he was condemned to death, thus ironically complimented the magistrates on their baseness: It must be confessed, gentlemen, that God bestows upon magistrates lights which he refuses to others; I myself, now, could not have hoped to find the accused sufficiently guilty to deserve death !”
The rest of the picture of this atrocious minister is given in the same vigorous style, but we can, of course, do no more than point at a few portions of it. The rebellion, and subsequent baseness of
the Duke of Orleans; the proud stoicism of the Duke de Montmorency, who, when condemned to death by the parliament of Tonlouse, refused to appeal to other judges, observing, “ I will not quibble for my life;" the inexpressible meanness of the Prince de Condè, and the despicable vengeance of the Cardinal against a few poor women and monks, we must pass over entirely; but the passage which describes the wretched attempts of this tyrant to shine as a literary man, and which forcibly remind us of the furious ambition of the Sicilian despot to distinguish himself in the same way, is worth quoting, although the fact be tolerably well known.
Having glanced for a moment at the hypocrisy of Richelieu, the author proceeds:
He moreover founded theatres, and with the aid of Colletet, and other poor devils of that stamp, composed various tragedies and comedies. He expended two hundred thousand crowns in getting up the
representation of his would-be tragedy of Mivaine, and lavished upon Colletet six hundred francs for six lines. In the beginning of his career he had had the ambition of shining by his theological works in the church; he had now the vanity to hope to distinguish himself in the world of letters by his compositions both in verse and prose. But his verses were written by Gombervile, as bis theological works had, for the most part, been by the abbé de Bourzeis. Being desirous of exhibiting proofs of his affection for learning and literature, he founded the French Academy, and declared himself its protector. Nero and Domitian found poets to celebrate their praises ; Horace and Virgil lavished the most contemptible upon Augustus; and the Cardinal de Richelieu found enthusiastic and servile panegyrists. Not content with this, however, he desired a monopoly of praise. If the success of the Cid raised the name of Corneille to the clouds,
“Si Paris pour Chimère a les yieux de Rodrigue," his self-love becomes offended, and to fatter his wounded vanity, he prerails npon the Academy to censure the Cid. Like all other celebrated ainbitious men, he united the most astonishing contrasts, meanness and pride.'
The article which follows, upon the burning alive of Urbain Grandier, and the possession of the nuns of Loudun, may, in some measure, be looked upon as a supplement to that on the Cardinal de Richelieu. It is composed in a very different style, and although less animated, is more interesting. The history of this unfortunate man, who seems to have been put to death because he was handsome, vain, and somewhat witty, is one of the most extraordinary that can be conceived ; and although it must be sufficiently familiar to those who are versed in the history of superstition, it may still possess the charms of novelty for the general reader,
In entering on this narration, the author observes that he was far from thinking, when he commenced bis work, that the name of Grandier would have found a place in it; since the decision of posterity seemed to have sufficiently avenged his memory: A recent publication, however, falling into his hands, changed his reso
lution. He discovered that, not content with liaving formerly burned him alive, there were certain priests who wished to perpetuate the belief in his guilt, notwithstanding that the world has ceased to have any faith in the existence of the crime of which he was accused, and for which, ostensibly at least, he was executed. Many of the details into which the author enters, for the purpose of exposing the wickedness of Grandier's accusers, are such as could not be printed in England, though they are allowed in France; but we shall lay before our readers enough of this extraordinary affair, to exhibit a true picture of the spirit of those times.
The people of the town of Loudun, for some reason or another, were desirous of possessing a convent of Ursuline nuns, and signified their desires in form to the bishop of Poictiers. This worthy prelate, who appears to have shared all the superstition and profligacy of manners of the times in which he lived, very readily yielded to their wishes, and understanding that in the convent of Poictiers there were several nuns whose reputations were a little the worse for the wear, he selected those pious and charitable sisters, and placing the most debauched of them all at their head, despatched them in all haste to the good town of Loudun. On their arrival at the place of their destination, they found that there was no convent prepared to receive them, and that it would be necessary to put up for the present with an old haunted house, which was greatly fallen to decay. Neither was there at first any other provision than bread and water, a species of diet to which few persons resort from preference. Our nuns, who were persons of taste and judgment, soon gave affairs another turn. They laboured, acquired money, furnished their convent, and then began to look about for handsome confessors. Two persons presented themselves to perform this office for the nuns of Loudun, a priest with the very handsome name of Mignon, and Urbain Grandier, who possessed a person still handsomer than the name of his rival. M. Mignon, however, was not the man tamely to submit to rivalry in a matter of this kind, where the question was, who should possess the right to the consciences and persons of some score or two of pretty nuns. He, therefore, set himself seriously to work to get rid of his adversary, not by the ordinary means prevalent among the vulgar, but by a fine, subtle, and curious policy which none but a monk could have devised. He determined to remove his enemy by burning him alive. To effect this a certain degree of ingenuity was necessary, but no very extraordinary genius for mischief, for mankind seem to have lent themselves in those times with wonderful facility to further the designs of any rogue whatever.
In the first place the nuns, whose intellects seem to have been somewhat deranged by the spirit of licentiousness, were to be persuaded that their evil desires had been inflamed, not by the conversation and the arts usually prevailing at that time in convents, and not to be repressed so long as human nature shall remain unchanged,
but by the magical practices of Urbain Grandier. This part of the business was of course not very difficult, for the nuns, incapable of concealing their wanton propensities, were exceedingly willing to shift the blame from their own shoulders, even though it should rest on those of the handsome curé, who may, after all, have had something to do with the excitement among the nuns. Be this as it may, Mignon, terrified lest Grandier should rob him of his prey, pushed the matter to extremities, and with all the vehemence of a man urged on at once by the love of woman and the love of gain. Other passions, more or less malignant, united their force with these, perhaps, to hurry on the criminal in his course of guilt; but without any other motives, these were of themselves sufficient to account, under the circumstances, for his actions.
Grandier was now accused of having cast into the convent certaia thorns and roses prepared by magic, which excited, in as many of the nuns as inhaled their scent, an irresistible passion for the magician. The curé seems, in fact, to have been in posse-sion of that kind of magical art, which is all-powerful over the heart of woman, but which cannot be defined or described; for even among the secular dames of the town of Loudun, his powers were acknowledged, and his love sought for by many. Mignon, however, had resolved that his triumph in the world should be short. The accusation of sorcery was pushed with vigour, the nuns were interrogated, found to be possessed by whole troops of devils in the pay and service of M. Grandier, and the master of these faithless and unruly servants was apprehended and cast into prison.
Among his other accomplishments the handsome curé was understood to possess the art of writing satires, and had, it seems, amused himself in an unlucky moment, in exercising this talent at the expense of the Cardinal de Richelieu. Observing persons thought they could perceive some secret connexion between this fact, and the accusation of sorcery, and imagined that the hand which struck the curé reached all the way from Paris. At present the fact is pretty well ascertained ; and we can add to the other claims of the “Grand Cardinal” to the admiration of mankind, that of having caused a poor handsome young man to be burned alive, for having made himself too merry with his beard.
There is a singularly comic view in this horrible tragedy, which provokes laughter in the midst of the most fearful scenes. The abbé Mignon having discovered that the pretty nuns were possessed by the spirit of lust, who, when interrogated, replied that his name was Astaroth, bitherto supposed by the learned to have been a female demon, brought the whole affair before the magistrates, and requested them to repair to the convent, to be present at the exorcisms, and to behold the wonders which accompanied them. The baillie and the civil lieutenant accepted of their invitation, and repairing to the convent, found the lady abbess and one of the inferior sisters, in an apartment furnished with seven little beds, and surrounded by Carmelite friars, a canon, and a surgeon. At the sight of the magistrates, the lady abbess, who probably experienced some slight access of terror at that moment, uttered a piercing shriek, like a little pig, and hid herself under the sheets of the bed; and then putting out her head again, she made the most horrible grimaces, in order to convince the man of authority that the seven devils to which she laid claim were actually in her bed at the time.
This part of the farce having been performed to the satisfaction of the Carmelites and the abbé Mignon, the latter took up his exorcising book, and commenced the reading of those questions to which it was desirable that the devils should reply. It should be remarked, that in those times all devils were supposed to be extremely well educated, and to possess, among other accomplishments, a competent knowledge of all languages, ancient as well as modern. Their favourite dialect, however, was the Latin, and in order to accommodate himself to their taste, the abbé Mignon put questions in that language. “Propter quam causam ?” said he to the devil Astaroth, "ingressus es corpus hujus virginis ?" (that is, "for what reason has thou entered the body of this virgin ?") The devil, with a degree of candour which does him great credit, immediately replied, “ Per animositatem” (“through spite”). This point having been settled, and it being now clear that it was not for love, which, perhaps, the abbé previously suspected, Mignon continued, “ Per quod pactum ?” (by what covenant ?) Flores,” (by that of flowers), said the devil. “Quales ?” (what sort ?) « Rosas;" (roses). But now came the question for wbich all the others had been contrived. Quis misit ?” (who sent them ?) Here Astaroth, like a devil of some conscience, who betrayed his master with reluctance, hesitated for a short time, but at length muttered forth “ Urbanus.” This was coming close to the mark, but not hitting it; there might be other Urbanuses, and it would be difficult to obtain the permission of the magistrates to burn all persons of that name, in order to make sure of the right one. Another step, therefore, was to be made, and the intrepid Mignon continued, “ Dic cognomen, (mention his surname). Here Astaroth made a dead pause. Should he, or should he not, obey the powerful exorcises, and expose his beloved master to the certainty of being roasted alive before his time.
“ Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon." He paused again—then endeavoured to speak —then stopped. At length, however, plucking up his courage, and remembering, perhaps, that he had shared the favours of Grandier, with many others, he answered boldly, Grandier.” “ Dic qualitatem," (mention his quality) said Mignon; and the devil having now passed the Rubicon, continued, “Sacerdos” (a priest). “ Cujus ecclesiæ ?” (of what church)? “ Sancti Petri.” (of St. Peter.) “Quæ persona attulit flores ?” (what person brought the flowers)? “Diabolica.” (Mademoiselle Diabolique). After these words the