Spring 1969 • Vol. XXXI No. 2 Department KR: A Section of Briefer CommentJanuary 1, 1969 |

Saint-Simon, Chronicler of Versailles

"Of the two dukes who have gained immortality by letters, one depicted the follies of mankind in almost the lengthiest of human masterpieces, the other in almost the briefest." So I once began an introduction to the gem-like maxims of La Rochefoucauld, and so in no better way can I now begin upon the oceanic memoirs of Saint-Simon. With Saint-Simon, indeed, mention of his dukedom before everything else is altogether appropriate, for the dukedom itself came before everything else in his life. It is the rubric, the refrain, the battle standard at every stage of his career, it is the insistent subject-matter of far too much of the forty-odd volumes of the standard edition of the Mémoires. But Saint-Simon's indefatigable pen has greater claims on our attention than his all-too-wearisome peerage; though the pen too, and not simply in terms of the peerage, can become a solemn bore. Fortunately the memoirs are also, and very frequently, of extraordinary vividness and brilliance, setting b

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By Louis Kronenberger

"Of the two dukes who have gained immortality by letters, one depicted the follies of mankind in almost the lengthiest of human masterpieces, the other in almost the briefest." So […]

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