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Beacon Lights of History, Volume VII by John Lord

Part 2 out of 5

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exercises; she regularly confessed, and partook of the sacraments of the
Church. She did not even have a single sceptical doubt; she simply
affirmed that she obeyed voices that came from God.

Nothing could be more cruel than the treatment of this heroic girl, and
all under the forms of ecclesiastical courts. It was the diabolical
design of her enemies to make it appear that she had acted under the
influence of the Devil; that she was a heretic and a sorceress. Nothing
could be more forlorn than her condition. No efforts had been made to
ransom her. She was alone, and unsupported by friends, having not a
single friendly counsellor. She was carried to the castle of Rouen and
put in an iron cage, and chained to its bars; she was guarded by brutal
soldiers, was mocked by those who came to see her, and finally was
summoned before her judges predetermined on her death. They went through
the forms of trial, hoping to extort from the Maid some damaging
confessions, or to entangle her with their sophistical and artful
questions. Nothing perhaps on our earth has ever been done more
diabolically than under the forms of ecclesiastical law; nothing can be
more atrocious than the hypocrisies and acts of inquisitors. The judges
of Joan extorted from her that she had revelations, but she refused to
reveal what these had been. She was asked whether she was in a state of
grace. If she said she was not, she would be condemned as an outcast
from divine favor; if she said she was, she would be condemned for
spiritual pride. All such traps were set for this innocent girl. But she
acquitted herself wonderfully well, and showed extraordinary good sense.
She warded off their cunning and puerile questions. They tried every
means to entrap her. They asked her in what shape Saint Michael had
appeared to her; whether or no he was naked; whether he had hair;
whether she understood the feelings of those who had once kissed her
feet; whether she had not cursed God in her attempt to escape at
Beauvoir; whether it was for her merit that God sent His angel; whether
God hated the English; whether her victory was founded on her banner or
on herself; when had she learned to ride a horse.

The judges framed seventy accusations against her, mostly frivolous, and
some unjust,--to the effect that she had received no religious training;
that she had worn mandrake; that she dressed in man's attire; that she
had bewitched her banner and her ring; that she believed her apparitions
were saints and angels; that she had blasphemed; and other charges
equally absurd. Under her rigid trials she fell sick; but they restored
her, reserving her for a more cruel fate. All the accusations and
replies were sent to Paris, and the learned doctors decreed, under
English influence, that Joan was a heretic and a sorceress.

After another series of insulting questions, she was taken to the
market-place of Rouen to receive sentence, and then returned to her
gloomy prison, where they mercifully allowed her to confess and receive
the sacrament. She was then taken in a cart, under guard of eight
hundred soldiers, to the place of execution; rudely dragged to the
funeral pile, fastened to a stake, and fire set to the faggots. She
expired, exclaiming, "Jesus, Jesus! My voices, my voices!"

Thus was sacrificed one of the purest and noblest women in the whole
history of the world,--a woman who had been instrumental in delivering
her country, but without receiving either honor or gratitude from those
for whom she had fought and conquered. She died a martyr to the cause of
patriotism,--not for religion, but for her country. She died among
enemies, unsupported by friends or by those whom she had so greatly
benefited, and with as few religious consolations as it was possible to
give. Never was there greater cruelty and injustice inflicted on an
innocent and noble woman. The utmost ingenuity of vindictive priests
never extorted from her a word which criminated her, though they
subjected her to inquisitorial examinations for days and weeks. Burned
as an infidel, her last words recognized the Saviour in whom she
believed; burned as a witch, she never confessed to anything but the
voices of God. Her heroism, even at the stake, should have called out
pity and admiration; but her tormentors were insensible to both. She was
burned really from vengeance, because she had turned the tide of
conquest. "The Jews," says Michelet, "never exhibited the rage against
Jesus that the English did against the Pucelle," in whom purity,
sweetness, and heroic goodness dwelt. Never was her life stained by a
single cruel act. In the midst of her torments she did not reproach her
tormentors. In the midst of her victories she wept for the souls of
those who were killed; and while she incited others to combat, she
herself did not use her sword. In man's attire she showed a woman's
soul. Pity and gentleness were as marked as courage and self-confidence.

It is one of the most insolvable questions in history why so little
effort was made by the French to save the Maid's life. It is strange
that the University of Paris should have decided against her, after she
had rendered such transcendent services. Why should the priests of that
age have treated her as a witch, when she showed all the traits of an
angel? Why should not the most unquestioning faith have preserved her
from the charge of heresy? Alas! she was only a peasant girl, and the
great could not bear to feel that the country had been saved by a
peasant. Even chivalry, which worshipped women, did not come to Joan's
aid. How great must have been feudal distinctions when such a heroic
woman was left to perish! How deep the ingratitude of the King and his
court, to have made no effort to save her!

Joan made one mistake: after the coronation of Charles VII. she should
have retired from the field of war, for her work was done. Such a
transcendent heroism could not have sunk into obscurity. But this was
not to be; she was to die as a martyr to her cause.

After her death the English carried on war with new spirit for a time,
and Henry VI. of England was crowned in Paris, at Notre Dame. He was
crowned, however, by an English, not by a French prelate. None of the
great French nobles even were present. The coronation was a failure.
Gradually all France was won over to the side of Charles. He was a
contemptible monarch, but he was the legitimate King of France. All
classes desired peace; all parties were weary of war. The Treaty of
Arras, in 1435, restored peace between Charles and Philip of Burgundy;
and in the same year the Duke of Bedford died. In 1436 Charles took
possession of Paris. In 1445 Henry VI. married Margaret of Anjou, a
kinswoman of Charles VII. In 1448 Charles invaded Normandy, and expelled
the English from the duchy which for four hundred years had belonged to
the kings of England. Soon after Guienne fell. In 1453 Calais alone
remained to England, after a war of one hundred years.

At last a tardy justice was done to the memory of her who had turned the
tide of conquest. The King, ungrateful as he had been, now ennobled her
family and their descendants, even in the female line, and bestowed upon
them pensions and offices. In 1452, twenty years after the martyrdom,
the Pope commissioned the Archbishop of Rheims and two other prelates,
aided by an inquisitor, to inquire into the trial of Joan of Arc. They
met in Notre Dame. Messengers were sent into the country where she was
born, to inquire into her history; and all testified--priests and
peasants--to the moral beauty of her character, to her innocent and
blameless life, her heroism in battle, and her good sense in counsel.
And the decision of the prelates was that her visions came from God;
that the purity of her motives and the good she did to her country
justified her in leaving her parents and wearing a man's dress. They
pronounced the trial at Rouen to have been polluted with wrong and
calumny, and freed her name from every shadow of disgrace. The people of
Orleans instituted an annual religious festival to her honor. The Duke
of Orleans gave a grant of land to her brothers, who were ennobled. The
people of Rouen raised a stone cross to her memory in the market-place
where she was burned. In later times, the Duchess of Orleans, wife of
the son and heir of Louis Philippe, modelled with her own hands an
exquisite statue of Joan of Arc. But the most beautiful and impressive
tribute which has ever been paid to her name and memory was a _fete_ of
three days' continuance, in 1856, on the anniversary of the deliverance
of Orleans, when the celebrated Bishop Dupanloup pronounced one of the
most eloquent eulogies ever offered to the memory of a heroine or
benefactor. That ancient city never saw so brilliant a spectacle as that
which took place in honor of its immortal deliverer, who was executed so
cruelly under the superintendence of a Christian bishop,--one of those
iniquities in the name of justice which have so often been perpetrated
on this earth. It was a powerful nation which killed her, and one
equally powerful which abandoned her.

But the martyrdom of Joan of Arc is an additional confirmation of the
truth that it is only by self-sacrifice that great deliverances have
been effected. Nothing in the moral government of God is more mysterious
than the fate which usually falls to the lot of great benefactors. To us
it seems sad and unjust; and nothing can reconcile us to the same but
the rewards of a future and higher life. And yet amid the flames there
arise the voices which save nations. Joan of Arc bequeathed to her
country, especially to the common people, some great lessons; namely,
not to despair amid great national calamities; to believe in God as the
true deliverer from impending miseries, who, however, works through
natural causes, demanding personal heroism as well as faith. There was
great grandeur in that peasant girl,--in her exalted faith at Domremy,
in her heroism at Orleans, in her triumph at Rheims, in her trial and
martyrdom at Rouen. But unless she had suffered, nothing would have
remained of this grandeur in the eyes of posterity. The injustice and
meanness with which she was treated have created a lasting sympathy for
her in the hearts of her nation. She was great because she died for her
country, serene and uncomplaining amid injustice, cruelty, and
ingratitude,--the injustice of an ecclesiastical court presided over by
a learned bishop; the cruelty of the English generals and nobles; the
ingratitude of her own sovereign, who made no effort to redeem her. She
was sold by one potentate to another as if she were merchandise,--as if
she were a slave. And those graces and illuminations which under other
circumstances would have exalted her into a catholic saint, like an
Elizabeth of Hungary or a Catherine of Sienna, were turned against her,
by diabolical executioners, as a proof of heresy and sorcery. We repeat
again, never was enacted on this earth a greater injustice. Never did a
martyr perish with more triumphant trust in the God whose aid she had so
uniformly invoked. And it was this triumphant Christian faith as she
ascended the funeral pyre which has consecrated the visions and the
voices under whose inspiration the Maid led a despairing nation to
victory and a glorious future.


Monstrelets' Chronicles; Cousinot's Chronique de la Pucelle; Histoire et
Discours du Siege, published by the city of Orleans in 1576; Sismondi's
Histoire des Francais; De Barante's Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne;
Michelet and Henri Martin's Histories of France; Vallet de Viriville's
Histoire de Charles VII.; Henri Wallon; Janet Tuckey's Life of Joan of
Arc, published by Putnam, 1880.


* * * * *

A. D. 1515-1582.


I have already painted in Cleopatra, to the best of my ability, the
Pagan woman of antiquity, revelling in the pleasures of vanity and
sensuality, with a feeble moral sense, and without any distinct
recognition of God or of immortality. The genius of Paganism was simply
the deification of the Venus Polyhymnia,--the adornment and pleasure of
what is perishable in man. It directed all the energies of human nature
to the pampering and decorating of this mortal body, not believing that
the mind and soul which animate it, and which are the sources of all its
glory, would ever live beyond the grave. A few sages believed
differently,--men who rose above the spirit of Paganism, but not such
men as Alexander, or Caesar, or Antony, the foremost men of all the
world in grand ambitions and successes. Taking it for granted that this
world is the only theatre for enjoyment, or action, or thought, men
naturally said, "Let us eat and drink and be merry, for to-morrow we
die." And hence no higher life was essayed than that which furnished
sensual enjoyments, or incited an ambition to be strong and powerful. Of
course, riches were sought above everything, since these furnished the
means of gratifying those pleasures which were most valued, or
stimulating that vanity whose essence is self-idolatry.

With this universal rush of humanity after pleasures which centred in
the body, the soul was left dishonored and uncared for, except by a few
philosophers. I do not now speak of the mind, for there were
intellectual pleasures derived from conversation, books, and works of
art. And some called the mind divine, in distinction from matter; some
speculated on the nature of each, and made mind and matter in perpetual
antagonism, as the good and evil forces of the universe. But the
prevailing opinion was that the whole man perished, or became absorbed
in the elemental forces of nature, or reappeared again in new forms upon
the earth, to expiate those sins of which human nature is conscious. To
some men were given longings after immortality, not absolute
convictions,--men like Plato, Socrates, and Cicero. But I do not speak
of these illustrious exceptions; I mean the great mass of the people,
especially the rich and powerful and pleasure-seeking,--those whose
supreme delight was in banquets, palaces, or intoxicating excitements,
like chariot-racings and gladiatorial shows; yea, triumphal processions
to raise the importance of the individual self, and stimulate vanity
and pride.

Hence Paganism put a small value, comparatively, on even intellectual
enjoyments. It cultivated those arts which appealed to the senses more
than to the mind; it paid dearly for any sort of intellectual training
which could be utilized,--oratory, for instance, to enable a lawyer to
gain a case, or a statesman to control a mob; it rewarded those poets
who could sing blended praises to Bacchus and Venus, or who could excite
the passions at the theatre. But it paid still higher prices to athletes
and dancers, and almost no price at all to those who sought to stimulate
a love of knowledge for its own sake,--men like Socrates, for example,
who walked barefooted, and lived on fifty dollars a year, and who at
last was killed out of pure hatred for the truths he told and the manner
in which he told them,--this martyrdom occurring in the most
intellectual city of the world. In both Greece and Rome there was an
intellectual training for men bent on utilitarian ends; even as we endow
schools of science and technology to enable us to conquer nature, and to
become strong and rich and comfortable; but there were no schools for
women, whose intellects were disdained, and who were valued only as
servants or animals,--either to drudge, or to please the senses.

But even if there were some women in Paganism of high mental
education,--if women sometimes rose above their servile condition by
pure intellect, and amused men by their wit and humor,--still their
souls were little thought of. Now, it is the soul of woman--not her
mind, and still less her body--which elevates her, and makes her, in
some important respects, the superior of man himself. He has dominion
over her by force of will, intellect, and physical power. When she has
dominion over him, it is by those qualities which come from her
soul,--her superior nature, greater than both mind and body. Paganism
never recognized the superior nature, especially in woman,--that which
must be fed, even in this world, or there will be constant unrest and
discontent. And inasmuch as Paganism did not feed it, women were
unhappy, especially those who had great capacities. They may have been
comfortable, but they were not contented.

Hence, women made no great advance either in happiness or in power,
until Christianity revealed the greatness of the soul, its perpetual
longings, its infinite capacities, and its future satisfactions. The
spiritual exercises of the soul then became the greatest source of
comfort amid those evils which once ended in despair. With every true
believer, the salvation of so precious a thing necessarily became the
end of life, for Christianity taught that the soul might be lost. In
view of the soul's transcendent value, therefore, the pleasures of the
body became of but little account in comparison. Riches are good, power
is desirable; eating and drinking are very pleasant; praise, flattery,
admiration,--all these things delight us, and under Paganism were sought
and prized. But Christianity said, "What shall a man give in exchange
for his soul?"

Christianity, then, set about in earnest to rescue this soul which
Paganism had disregarded. In consequence of this, women began to rise,
and shine in a new light. They gained a new charm, even moral
beauty,--yea, a new power, so that they could laugh at ancient foes, and
say triumphantly, when those foes sought to crush them, "O Grave, where
is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting?" There is no beauty among
women like this moral beauty, whose seat is in the soul. It is not only
a radiance, but it is a defence: it protects women from the wrath and
passion of men. With glory irradiating every feature, it says to the
boldest, Thus far shalt thou come and no farther. It is a benediction to
the poor and a welcome to the rich. It shines with such unspeakable
loveliness, so rich in blessing and so refined in ecstasy, that men gaze
with more than admiration, even with sentiments bordering on that
adoration which the Middle Ages felt for the mother of our Lord, and
which they also bestowed upon departed saints. In the immortal paintings
of Raphael and Murillo we get some idea of this moral beauty, which is
so hard to copy.

So woman passed gradually from contempt and degradation to the
veneration of men, when her soul was elevated by the power which
Paganism never knew. But Christianity in the hands of degenerate Romans
and Gothic barbarians made many mistakes in its efforts to save so
priceless a thing as a human soul. Among other things, it instituted
monasteries and convents, both for men and women, in which they sought
to escape the contaminating influences which had degraded them. If
Paganism glorified the body, monasticism despised it. In the fierce
protests against the peculiar sins which had marked Pagan
life,--gluttony, wine-drinking, unchastity, ostentatious vanities, and
turbulent mirth,--monasticism decreed abstinence, perpetual virginity,
the humblest dress, the entire disuse of ornaments, silence, and
meditation. These were supposed to disarm the demons who led into foul
temptation. Moreover, monasticism encouraged whatever it thought would
make the soul triumphant over the body, almost independent of it.
Whatever would feed the soul, it said, should be sought, and whatever
would pamper the body should be avoided.

As a natural consequence of all this, piety gradually came to seek its
most congenial home in monastic retreats, and to take on a dreamy,
visionary, and introspective mood. The "saints" saw visions of both
angels and devils, and a superstitious age believed in their
revelations. The angels appeared to comfort and sustain the soul in
temptations and trials, and the devils came to pervert and torment it.
Good judgment and severe criticism were lost to the Church; and,
moreover, the gloomy theology of the Middle Ages, all based on the fears
of endless physical torments,--for the wretched body was the source of
all evil, and therefore must be punished,--gave sometimes a repulsive
form to piety itself. Intellectually, that piety now excites our
contempt, because it was so much mixed up with dreams and ecstasies and
visions and hallucinations. It produces a moral aversion also, because
it was austere, inhuman, and sometimes cruel. Both monks and nuns, when
they conformed to the rules of their order, were sad, solitary,
dreary-looking people, although their faces shone occasionally in the
light of ecstatic visions of heaven and the angels.

But whatever mistakes monasticism made, however repulsive the religious
life of the Middle Ages,--in fact, all its social life,--still it must
be admitted that the aim of the time was high. Men and women were
enslaved by superstitions, but they were not Pagan. Our own age is, in
some respects, more Pagan than were the darkest times of mediaeval
violence and priestly despotism, since we are reviving the very things
against which Christianity protested as dangerous and false,--the
pomps, the banquets, the ornaments, the arts of the old Pagan world.

Now, all this is preliminary to what I have to say of Saint Theresa. We
cannot do justice to this remarkable woman without considering the
sentiments of her day, and those circumstances that controlled her. We
cannot properly estimate her piety--that for which she was made a saint
in the Roman calendar--without being reminded of the different estimate
which Paganism and Christianity placed upon the soul, and consequently
the superior condition of women in our modern times. Nor must we treat
lightly or sneeringly that institution which was certainly one of the
steps by which women rose in the scale both of religious and social
progress. For several ages nuns were the only charitable women, except
queens and princesses, of whom we have record. But they were drawn to
their calm retreats, not merely to serve God more effectually, nor
merely to perform deeds of charity, but to study. As we have elsewhere
said, the convents in those days were schools no less than asylums and
hospitals, and were especially valued for female education. However, in
these retreats religion especially became a passion. There was a fervor
in it which in our times is unknown. It was not a matter of opinion, but
of faith. In these times there may be more wisdom, but in the Middle
Ages there was more zeal and more unselfishness and more intensity,--all
which is illustrated by the sainted woman I propose to speak of.

Saint Theresa was born at Avila, in Castile, in the year 1515, at the
close of the Middle Ages; but she really belonged to the Middle Ages,
since all the habits, customs, and opinions of Spain at that time were
mediaeval. The Reformation never gained a foothold in Spain. None of its
doctrines penetrated that country, still less modified or changed its
religious customs, institutions, or opinions. And hence Saint Theresa
virtually belonged to the age of Bernard, and Anselm, and Elizabeth of
Hungary. She was of a good family as much distinguished for virtues as
for birth. Both her father and mother were very religious and studious,
reading good books, and practising the virtues which Catholicism ever
enjoined,--alms-giving to the poor, and kindness to the sick and
infirm,--truthful, chaste, temperate, and God-fearing. They had twelve
children, all good, though Theresa seems to have been the favorite, from
her natural sprightliness and enthusiasm. Among the favorite books of
the Middle Ages were the lives of saints and martyrs; and the history of
these martyrs made so great an impression on the mind of the youthful
Theresa that she and one of her brothers meditated a flight into Africa
that they might be put to death by the Moors, and thus earn the crown
of martyrdom, as well as the eternal rewards in heaven which martyrdom
was supposed to secure. This scheme being defeated by their parents,
they sought to be hermits in the garden which belonged to their house,
playing the part of monks and nuns.

At eleven, Theresa lost her mother, and took to reading romances, which,
it seems, were books of knight-errantry, at the close of the chivalric
period. These romances were innumerable, and very extravagant and
absurd, and were ridiculed by Cervantes, half-a-century afterwards, in
his immortal "Don Quixote." Although Spain was mediaeval in its piety in
the sixteenth century, this was the period of its highest intellectual
culture, especially in the drama. De Vega and Cervantes were enough of
themselves to redeem Spain from any charges of intellectual stupidity.
But for the Inquisition, and the Dominican monks, and the Jesuits, and
the demoralization which followed the conquests of Cortes and Pizarro,
Spain might have rivalled Germany, France, and England in the greatness
of her literature. At this time there must have been considerable
cultivation among the class to which Theresa belonged.

Although she never was sullied by what are called mortal sins, it would
appear that as a girl of fourteen Theresa was, like most other girls,
fond of dress and perfumes and ornaments, elaborate hair-dressing, and
of anything which would make the person attractive. Her companions also
were gay young ladies of rank, as fond of finery as she was, whose
conversation was not particularly edifying, but whose morals were above
reproach. Theresa was sent to a convent in her native town by her
father, that she might be removed from the influence of gay companions,
especially her male cousins, who could not be denied the house. At first
she was quite unhappy, finding the convent dull, _triste_, and strict. I
cannot conceive of a convent being a very pleasant place for a worldly
young lady, in any country or in any age of the world. Its monotony and
routine and mechanical duties must ever have been irksome. The pleasing
manners and bright conversation of Theresa caused the nuns to take an
unusual interest in her; and one of them in particular exercised a great
influence upon her, so that she was inclined at times to become a nun
herself, though not of a very strict order, since she was still fond of
the pleasures of the world.

At sixteen, Theresa's poor health made it necessary for her to return to
her father's house. When she recovered she spent some time with her
uncle, afterwards a monk, who made her read good books, and impressed
upon her the vanity of the world. In a few months she resolved to become
a nun,--out of servile fear rather than love, as she avers. The whole
religious life of the Middle Ages was based on fear,--the fear of being
tortured forever by devils and hell. So universal and powerful was this
fear that it became the leading idea of the age, from which very few
were ever emancipated. On this idea were based the excommunications, the
interdicts, and all the spiritual weapons by which the clergy ruled the
minds of the people. On this their ascendency rested; they would have
had but little power without it. It was therefore their interest to
perpetuate it. And as they ruled by exciting fears, so they themselves
were objects of fear rather than of love.

All this tended to make the Middle Ages gloomy, funereal, repulsive,
austere. There was a time when I felt a sort of poetic interest in these
dark times, and called them ages of faith; but the older I grow, and the
more I read and reflect, the more dreary do those ages seem to me. Think
of a state of society when everything suggested wrath and vengeance,
even in the character of God, and when this world was supposed to be
under the dominion of devils! Think of an education which impressed on
the minds of interesting young girls that the trifling sins which they
committed every day, and which proceeded from the exuberance of animal
spirits, justly doomed them to everlasting burnings, without
expiations,--a creed so cruel as to undermine the health, and make life
itself a misery! Think of a spiritual despotism so complete that
confessors and spiritual fathers could impose or remove these
expiations, and thus open the door to heaven or hell!

And yet this despotism was the logical result of a generally accepted
idea, instead of the idea being an outgrowth of the despotism, since the
clergy, who controlled society by working on its fears, were themselves
as complete victims and slaves as the people whom they led. This idea
was that the soul would be lost unless sins were expiated, and expiated
by self-inflicted torments on the body. Paul taught a more cheerful
doctrine of forgiveness, based on divine and infinite love,--on faith
and repentance. The Middle Ages also believed in repentance, but taught
that repentance and penance were synonymous. The asceticism of the
Church in its conflict with Paganism led to this perversion of apostolic
theology. The very idea that Christianity was sent to subvert,--that is,
the old Oriental idea of self-expiation, seen among the fakirs and sofis
and Brahmins alike, and in a less repulsive form among the
Pharisees,--became once again the ruling idea of theologians. The
theologians of the Middle Ages taught this doctrine of penance and
self-expiation with peculiar zeal and sincerity; and fear rather than
love ruled the Christian world. Hence the austerity of convent life. Its
piety centred in the perpetual crucifixion of the body, in the
suppression of desires and pleasures which are perfectly innocent. The
highest ideal of Christian life, according to convent rules, was a
living and protracted martyrdom, and in some cases even the degradation
of our common humanity. Christianity nowhere enjoins the eradication of
passions and appetites, but the control of them. It would not mutilate
and disfigure the body, for it is a sacred temple, to be made beautiful
and attractive. On the other hand the Middle Ages strove to make the
body appear repulsive, and the most loathsome forms of misery and
disease to be hailed as favorite modes of penance. And as Christ
suffered agonies on the cross, so the imitation of Christ was supposed
to be a cheerful and ready acceptance of voluntary humiliation and
bodily torments,--the more dreadful to bear, the more acceptable to
Deity as a propitiation for sin. Is this statement denied? Read the
biographies of the saints of the Middle Ages. See how penance, and
voluntary suffering, and unnecessary exposure of the health, and eager
attention to the sick in loathsome and contagious diseases, and the
severest and most protracted fastings and vigils, enter into their
piety; and how these extorted popular admiration, and received the
applause and rewards of the rulers of the Church. I never read a book
which left on my mind such repulsive impressions of mediaeval piety as
the Life of Catherine of Sienna, by her confessor,--himself one of the
great ecclesiastical dignitaries of the age. I never read anything so
debasing and degrading to our humanity. One turns with disgust from the
narration of her lauded penances.

So we see in the Church of the Middle Ages--the Church of Saint
Theresa--two great ideas struggling for the mastery, yet both obscured
and perverted: faith in a crucified Redeemer, which gave consolation and
hope; and penance, rather than repentance, which sought to impose the
fetters of the ancient spiritual despotisms. In the early Church, faith
and repentance went hand in hand together to conquer the world, and to
introduce joy and peace and hope among believers. In the Middle Ages,
faith was divorced from repentance, and took penance instead as a
companion,--an old enemy; so that there was discord in the Christian
camp, and fears returned, and joys were clouded. Sometimes faith
prevailed over penance, as in the monastery of Bec, where Anselm taught
a cheerful philosophy,--or in the monastery of Clairvaux, where Bernard
lived in seraphic ecstasies, his soul going out in love and joy; and
then again penance prevailed, as in those grim retreats where hard
inquisitors inflicted their cruel torments. But penance, on the whole,
was the ruling power, and cast over society its funereal veil of
dreariness and fear. Yet penance, enslaving as it was, still clung to
the infinite value of the soul, the grandest fact in all revelations,
and hence society did not relax into Paganism. Penance would save the
soul, though surrounding it with gloom, maceration, heavy labors, bitter
tears, terrible anxieties. The wearied pilgrim, the isolated monk, the
weeping nun, the groaning peasant, the penitent baron, were not thrown
into absolute despair, since there was a possibility of appeasing divine
wrath, and since they all knew that Christ had died in order to save
some,--yea, all who conformed to the direction of those spiritual guides
which the Church and the age imposed.

Such was Catholic theology when Theresa--an enthusiastic, amiable, and
virtuous girl of sixteen, but at one time giddy and worldly--wished to
enter a convent for the salvation of her soul. She says she was
influenced _by servile fear_, and not by love. It is now my purpose to
show how this servile fear was gradually subdued by divine grace, and
how she became radiant with _love_,--in short, an emancipated woman, in
all the glorious liberty of the gospel of Christ; although it was not
until she had passed through a most melancholy experience of bondage to
the leading ideas of her Church and age. It is this emancipation which
made her one of the great women of history, not complete and entire, but
still remarkable, especially for a Spanish woman. It was love
casting out fear.

After a mental struggle of three months, Theresa resolved to become a
nun. But her father objected, partly out of his great love for her, and
partly on account of her delicate and fragile body. Her health had
always been poor: she was subject to fainting fits and burning fevers.
Whether her father, at last, consented to her final retirement from the
world I do not discover from her biography; but, with his consent or
without it, she entered the convent and assumed the religious
habit,--not without bitter pangs on leaving her home, for she did
violence to her feelings, having no strong desire for monastic
seclusion, and being warmly attached to her father. Neither love to God
nor a yearning after monastic life impelled the sacrifice, as she
admits, but a perverted conscience. She felt herself in danger of
damnation for her sins, and wished to save her soul, and knew no other
way than to enter upon the austerities of the convent, which she endured
with remarkable patience and submission, suffering not merely from
severities to which she was unaccustomed, but great illness in
consequence of them. A year was passed in protracted miseries, amounting
to martyrdom, from fainting fits, heart palpitations, and other
infirmities of the body. The doctors could do nothing for her, and her
father was obliged to order her removal to a more healthful monastery,
where no vows of enclosure were taken.

And there she remained a year, with no relief to her sufferings for
three months. Her only recreation was books, which fortified her
courage. She sought instruction, but found no one who could instruct her
so as to give repose to her struggling soul. She endeavored to draw her
thoughts from herself by reading. She could not even pray without a
book. She was afraid to be left alone with herself. Her situation was
made still worse by the fact that her superiors did not understand her.
When they noticed that she sought solitude, and shed tears for her sins,
they fancied she had a discontented disposition, and added to her
unhappiness by telling her so. But she conformed to all the rules,
irksome or not, and endured every mortification, and even performed acts
of devotion which were not required. She envied the patience of a poor
woman who died of the most painful ulcers, and thought it would be a
blessing if she could be afflicted in the same way, in order, as she
said, to purchase eternal good. And this strange desire was fulfilled,
for a severe and painful malady afflicted her for three years.

Again was she removed to some place for cure, for her case was
desperate. And here her patience was supernal. Yet patience under bodily
torments did not give the sought-for peace. It happened that a learned
ecclesiastic of noble family lived in this place, and she sought relief
in confessions to him. With a rare judgment and sense, and perhaps pride
and delicacy, she disliked to confess to ignorant priests. She said
that the half-learned did her more harm than good. The learned were
probably more lenient to her, and more in sympathy with her, and assured
her that those sins were only venial which she had supposed were mortal.
But she soon was obliged to give up this confessor, since he began to
confess to her, and to confess sins in comparison with which the sins
she confessed were venial indeed. He not only told her of his slavery to
a bad woman, but confessed a love for Theresa herself, which she of
course repelled, though not with the aversion she ought to have felt. It
seems that her pious talk was instrumental in effecting his deliverance
from a base bondage. He soon after died, and piously, she declared; so
that she considered it certain that his soul was saved.

Theresa remained three months in this place, in most grievous
sufferings, for the remedy was worse than the disease. Again her father
took her home, since all despaired of her recovery, her nervous system
being utterly shattered, and her pains incessant by day and by night;
the least touch was a torment. At last she sank into a state of
insensibility from sheer exhaustion, so that she was supposed to be
dying, even to be dead; and her grave was dug, and the sacrament of
extreme unction was administered. She rallied from this prostration,
however, and returned to the convent, though in a state of extreme
weakness, and so remained for eight months. For three years she was a
cripple, and could move about only on all-fours; but she was resigned
to the will of God.

It was then, amid the maladies of her body, that she found relief to her
over-burdened soul in prayer. She no longer prayed with a book,
mechanically and by rote, but mentally, with earnestness, and with the
understanding. And she prayed directly to God Almighty, and thereby
came, she says, to love Him. And with prayer came new virtues. She now
ceases to speak ill of people, and persuades others to cease from all
detractions, so that absent people are safe. She speaks of God as her
heavenly physician, who alone could cure her. She now desires, not
sickness to show her patience, but health in order to serve God better.
She begins to abominate those forms and ceremonies to which so many were
slavishly devoted, and which she regards as superstitious. But she has
drawbacks and relapses, and is pulled back by temptations and vanities,
so that she is ashamed to approach God with that familiarity which
frequent prayer requires. Then she fears hell, which she thinks she
deserves. She has not yet reached the placidity of a pardoned soul.
Perfection is very slow to be reached, and that is what the Middle Ages
required in order to exorcise the fears of divine wrath. Not, however,
until these fears are exorcised can there be the liberty of the gospel
or the full triumph of love.

Thus for several years Theresa passed a miserable life, since the more
she prayed the more she realized her faults; and these she could not
correct, because her soul was not a master, but a slave. She was drawn
two ways, in opposite directions. She made good resolutions, but failed
to keep them; and then there was a deluge of tears,--the feeling that
she was the weakest and wickedest of all creatures. For nearly twenty
years she passed through this tempestuous sea, between failings and
risings, enjoying neither the sweetness of God nor the pleasures of the
world. But she did not lose the courage of applying herself to mental
prayer. This fortified her; this was her stronghold; this united her to
God. She was persuaded if she persevered in this, whatever sin she might
commit, or whatever temptation might be presented, that, in the end, her
Lord would bring her safe to the port of salvation. So she prayed
without ceasing. She especially insisted on the importance of mental
prayer (which is, I suppose, what is called holy meditation) as a sort
of treaty of friendship with her Lord. At last she feels that the Lord
assists her, in His great love, and she begins to trust in Him. She
declares that prayer is the gate through which the Lord bestows upon her
His favors; and it is only through this that any comfort comes. Then she
begins to enjoy sermons, which once tormented her, whether good or bad,
so long as God is spoken of, for she now loves Him; and she cannot hear
too much of Him she loves. She delights to see her Lord's picture, since
it aids her to see Him inwardly, and to feel that He is always near her,
which is her constant desire.

About this time the "Confessions of Saint Augustine" were put into
Theresa's hands,--one of the few immortal books which are endeared to
the heart of Christians. This book was a comfort and enlightenment to
her, she thinking that the Lord would forgive her, as He did those
saints who had been great sinners, because He loved them. When she
meditated on the conversion of Saint Augustine,--how he heard the voice
in the garden,--it seemed to her that the Lord equally spoke to her, and
thus she was filled with gratitude and joy. After this, her history is
the enumeration of the favors which God gave her, and of the joys of
prayer, which seemed to her to be the very joys of heaven. She longs
more and more for her divine Spouse, to whom she is spiritually wedded.
She pants for Him as the hart pants for the water-brook. She cannot be
separated from Him; neither death nor hell can separate her from His
love. He is infinitely precious to her,--He is chief among ten thousand.
She blesses His holy name. In her exceeding joy she cries, "O Lord of my
soul, O my eternal Good!" In her ecstasy she sings,--

"Absent from Thee, my Saviour dear!
I call not life this living here.
Ah, Lord I my light and living breath,
Take me, oh, take me from this death
And burst the bars that sever me
From my true life above!
Think how I die Thy face to see,
And cannot live away from Thee,
O my Eternal Love!"

Thus she composes canticles and dries her tears, feeling that the love
of God does not consist in these, but in serving Him with fidelity and
devotion. She is filled with the graces of humility, and praises God
that she is permitted to speak of things relating to Him. She is filled
also with strength, since it is He who strengthens her. She is
perpetually refreshed, since she drinks from a divine fountain. She is
in a sort of trance of delight from the enjoyment of divine blessings.
Her soul is elevated to rapture. She feels that her salvation, through
grace, is assured. She no longer has fear of devils or of hell, since
with an everlasting love she is beloved; and her lover is Christ. She
has broken the bondage of the Middle Ages, and she has broken it by
prayer. She is an emancipated woman, and can now afford to devote
herself to practical duties. She visits the sick, she dispenses
charities, she gives wise counsels; for with all her visionary piety she
has good sense in the things of the world, and is as practical as she is
spiritual and transcendental.

And all this in the midst of visions. I will not dwell on these
visions, the weak point in her religious life, though they are visions
of beauty, not of devils, of celestial spirits who came to comfort her,
and who filled her soul with joy and peace.

"A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee."

She is bathed in the glory of her Lord, and her face shines with the
radiance of heaven, with the moral beauty which the greatest of Spanish
painters represents on his canvas. And she is beloved by everybody, is
universally venerated for her virtues as well as for her spiritual
elevation. The greatest ecclesiastical dignitaries come to see her, and
encourage her, and hold converse with her, for her intellectual gifts
were as remarkable as her piety. Her conversation, it appears, was
charming. Her influence over the highest people was immense. She
pleased, she softened, and she elevated all who knew her. She reigned in
her convent as Madame de Stael reigned in her _salon_. She was supposed
to have reached perfection; and yet she never claimed perfection, but
sadly felt her imperfections, and confessed them. She was very fond of
the society of learned men, from first to last, but formed no
friendships except with those whom she believed to be faithful
servants of God.

At this period Theresa meditated the foundation of a new convent of the
Carmelite order, to be called St. Joseph, after the name of her patron
saint. But here she found great difficulty, as her plans were not
generally approved by her superiors or the learned men whom she
consulted. They were deemed impracticable, for she insisted that the
convent should not be endowed, nor be allowed to possess property. In
all the monasteries of the Middle Ages, the monks, if individually poor,
might be collectively rich; and all the famous monasteries came
gradually to be as well endowed as Oxford and Cambridge universities
were. This proved, in the end, an evil, since the monks became lazy and
luxurious and proud. They could afford to be idle; and with idleness and
luxury came corruption. The austere lives of the founders of these
monasteries gave them a reputation for sanctity and learning, and this
brought them wealth. Rich people who had no near relatives were almost
certain to leave them something in their wills. And the richer the
monasteries became, the greedier their rulers were.

Theresa determined to set a new example. She did not institute any
stricter rules; she was emancipated from austerities; but she resolved
to make her nuns dependent on the Lord rather than on rich people. Nor
was she ambitious of founding a large convent. She thought that thirteen
women together were enough. Gradually she brought the provincial of the
order over to her views, and also the celebrated friar, Peter of
Alcantara, the most eminent ecclesiastic in Spain. But the townspeople
of Avila were full of opposition. They said it was better for Theresa to
remain where she was; that there was no necessity for another convent,
and that it was a very foolish thing. So great was the outcry, that the
provincial finally withdrew his consent; he also deemed the revenue to
be too uncertain. Then the advice of a celebrated Dominican was sought,
who took eight days to consider the matter, and was at first inclined to
recommend the abandonment of the project, but on further reflection he
could see no harm in it, and encouraged it. So a small house was bought,
for the nuns must have some shelter over their heads. The provincial
changed his opinion again, and now favored the enterprise. It was a
small affair, but a great thing to Theresa. Her friend the Dominican
wrote letters to Rome, and the provincial offered no further objection.
Moreover, she had bright visions of celestial comforters.

But the superior of her convent, not wishing the enterprise to succeed,
and desiring to get her out of the way, sent Theresa to Toledo, to visit
and comfort a sick lady of rank, with whom she remained six months.
Here she met many eminent men, chiefly ecclesiastics of the Dominican
and Jesuit orders; and here she inspired other ladies to follow her
example, among others a noble nun of her own order, who sold all she had
and walked to Rome barefooted, in order to obtain leave to establish a
religious house like that proposed by Theresa. At last there came
letters and a brief from Rome for the establishment of the convent, and
Theresa was elected prioress, in the year 1562.

But the opposition still continued, and the most learned and influential
were resolved on disestablishing the house. The matter at last reached
the ears of the King and council, and an order came requiring a
statement as to how the monastery was to be founded. Everything was
discouraging. Theresa, as usual, took refuge in prayer, and went to the
Lord and said, "This house is not mine; it is established for Thee; and
since there is no one to conduct the case, do Thou undertake it." From
that time she considered the matter settled. Nevertheless the opposition
continued, much to the astonishment of Theresa, who could not see how a
prioress and twelve nuns could be injurious to the city. Finally,
opposition so far ceased that it was agreed that the house should be
unmolested, provided it were endowed. On this point, however, Theresa
was firm, feeling that if she once began to admit revenue, the people
would not afterwards allow her to refuse it. So amid great opposition
she at last took up her abode in the convent she had founded, and wanted
for nothing, since alms, all unsolicited, poured in sufficient for all
necessities; and the attention of the nuns was given to their duties
without anxieties or obstruction, in all the dignity of
voluntary poverty.

I look upon this reformation of the Carmelite order as very remarkable.
The nuns did not go around among rich people supplicating their aid as
was generally customary, for no convent or monastery was ever rich
enough, in its own opinion. Still less did they say to rich people, "Ye
are the lords and masters of mankind. We recognize your greatness and
your power. Deign to give us from your abundance, not that we may live
comfortably when serving the Lord, but live in luxury like you, and
compete with you in the sumptuousness of our banquets and in the
costliness of our furniture and our works of art, and be your companions
and equals in social distinctions, and be enrolled with you as leaders
of society." On the contrary they said, "We ask nothing from you. We do
not wish to be rich. We prefer poverty. We would not be encumbered with
useless impediments--too much camp equipage--while marching to do battle
with the forces of the Devil. Christ is our Captain. He can take care of
his own troops. He will not let us starve. And if we do suffer, what of
that? He suffered for our sake, shall we not suffer for his cause?"

The Convent of St. Joseph was founded in 1562, after Theresa had passed
twenty-nine years in the Convent of the Incarnation. She died, 1582, at
the age of sixty-seven, after twenty years of successful labors in the
convent she had founded; revered by everybody; the friend of some of the
most eminent men in Spain, including the celebrated Borgia, ex-Duke of
Candia, and General of the Jesuits, who took the same interest in
Theresa that Fenelon did in Madame Guyon. She lived to see established
sixteen convents of nuns, all obeying her reformed rule, and most of
them founded by her amid great difficulties and opposition. When she
founded the Carmelite Convent of Toledo she had only four ducats to
begin with. Some one objected to the smallness of the sum, when she
replied, "Theresa and this money are indeed nothing; but God and Theresa
and four ducats can accomplish anything." It was amid the fatigues
incident to the founding a convent in Burgos that she sickened and died.

It was not, however, merely from her labors as a reformer and nun that
Saint Theresa won her fame, but also for her writings, which blaze with
genius, although chiefly confined to her own religious experience. These
consist of an account of her own life, and various letters and mystic
treatises, some description of her spiritual conflicts and ecstasies,
others giving accounts of her religious labors in the founding of
reformed orders and convents; while the most famous is a rapt portrayal
of the progress of the soul to the highest heaven. Her own Memoirs
remind one of the "Confessions of Saint Augustine," and of the
"Imitation of Christ," by Thomas a Kempis. People do not read such books
in these times to any extent, at least in this country, but they have
ever been highly valued on the continent of Europe. The biographers of
Saint Theresa have been numerous, some of them very distinguished, like
Ribera, Yepez, and Sainte Marie. Bossuet, while he condemned Madame
Guyon for the same mystical piety which marked Saint Theresa, still
bowed down to the authority of the writings of the saint, while Fleury
quotes them with the decrees of the Council of Trent.

But Saint Theresa ever was submissive to the authority of the Pope and
of her spiritual directors. She would not have been canonized by Gregory
XV. had she not been. So long as priests and nuns have been submissive
to the authority of the Church, the Church has been lenient to their
opinions. Until the Reformation, there was great practical freedom of
opinion in the Catholic Church. Nor was the Church of the sixteenth
century able to see the logical tendency of the mysticism of Saint
Theresa, since it was not coupled with rebellion against spiritual
despotism. It was not until the logical and dogmatic intellect of
Bossuet discerned the spiritual independence of the Jansenists and
Quietists, that persecution began against them. Had Saint Theresa lived
a century later, she would probably have shared the fate of Madame
Guyon, whom she resembled more closely than any other woman that I have
read of,--in her social position, in her practical intellect, despite
the visions of a dreamy piety, in her passionate love of the Saviour, in
her method of prayer, in her spiritual conflicts, in the benevolence
which marked all her relations with the world, in the divine charity
which breathed through all her words, and in the triumph of love over
all the fears inspired by a gloomy theology and a superstitious
priesthood. Both of these eminent women were poets of no ordinary merit;
both enjoyed the friendship of the most eminent men of their age; both
craved the society of the learned; both were of high birth and beautiful
in their youth, and fitted to adorn society by their brilliant talk as
well as graceful manners; both were amiable and sought to please, and
loved distinction and appreciation; both were Catholics, yet permeated
with the spirit of Protestantism, so far as religion is made a matter
between God and the individual soul, and marked by internal communion
with the Deity rather than by outward acts of prescribed forms; both had
confessors, and yet both maintained the freedom of their minds and
souls, and knew of no binding authority but that divine voice which
appealed to their conscience and heart, and that divine word which is
written in the Scriptures. After the love of God had subdued their
hearts, we read but little of penances, or self-expiations, or forms of
worship, or church ceremonies, or priestly rigors, or any of the
slaveries and formalities which bound ordinary people. Their piety was
mystical, sometimes visionary, and not always intelligible, but deep,
sincere, and lofty. Of the two women, I think Saint Theresa was the more
remarkable, and had the most originality. Madame Guyon seems to have
borrowed much from her, especially in her methods of prayer.

The influence of Saint Theresa's life and writings has been eminent and
marked, not only in the Catholic but in the Protestant Church. If not
direct, it has been indirect. She had that active, ardent nature which
sets at defiance a formal piety, and became an example to noble women in
a more enlightened, if less poetic, age. She was the precursor of a
Madame de Chantal, of a Francis de Sales, of a Mere Angelique. The
learned and saintly Port Royalists, in many respects, were her
disciples. We even see a resemblance to her spiritual exercises in the
"Thoughts" of Pascal. We see her mystical love of the Saviour in the
poetry of Cowper and Watts and Wesley. The same sentiments she uttered
appear even in the devotional works of Jeremy Taylor and Jonathan
Edwards. The Protestant theology of the last century was in harmony with
hers in its essential features. In the "Pilgrim's Progress" of Bunyan we
have no more graphic pictures of the sense of sin, the justice of its
punishment, and the power by which it is broken, than are to be found in
the writings of this saintly woman. In no Protestant hymnals do we find
a warmer desire for a spiritual union with the Author of our salvation;
in none do we see the aspiring soul seeking to climb to the regions of
eternal love more than in her exultant melodies.

"For uncreated charms I burn,
Oppressed by slavish fears no more;
For _One_ in whom I may discern,
E'en when He frowns, a sweetness I adore."

That remarkable work of Fenelon in which he defends Madame Guyon, called
"Maxims of the Saints," would equally apply to Saint Theresa, in fact to
all those who have been distinguished for an inward life, from Saint
Augustine to Richard Baxter,--for unselfish love, resignation to the
divine will, self-renunciation, meditation too deep for words, and union
with Christ, as represented by the figure of the bride and bridegroom.
This is Christianity, as it has appeared in all ages, both among
Catholic and Protestant saints. It may seem to some visionary, to others
unreasonable, and to others again repulsive. But this has been the life
and joy of those whom the Church has honored and commended. It has
raised them above the despair of Paganism and the superstitions of the
Middle Ages. It is the love which casteth out fear, producing in the
harassed soul repose and rest amid the doubts and disappointments of
life. It is not inspired by duty; it does not rest on philanthropy; it
is not the religion of humanity. It is a gift bestowed by the Father of
Lights, and will be, to remotest ages, the most precious boon which He
bestows on those who seek His guidance.


Vie de Sainte Therese, ecrite par elle-meme; Lettres de Sainte Therese;
Les Ouvrages de Sainte Therese; Biographie Universelle; Fraser's
Magazine, lxv. 59; Butler's Lives of the Saints; Digby's Ages of Faith;
the Catholic Histories of the Church, especially Fleury's "Maxims of the
Saints." Lives of Saint Theresa by Ribera, Yepez, and Sainte Marie.


* * * * *

A. D. 1635-1719.


I present Madame de Maintenon as one of those great women who have
exerted a powerful influence on the political destinies of a nation,
since she was the life of the French monarchy for more than thirty years
during the reign of Louis XIV. In the earlier part of her career she was
a queen of society; but her social triumphs pale before the lustre of
that power which she exercised as the wife of the greatest monarch of
the age,--so far as splendor and magnificence can make a monarch great.
No woman in modern times ever rose so high from a humble position, with
the exception of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great. She was not born
a duchess, like some of those brilliant women who shed glory around the
absolute throne of the proudest monarch of his century, but rose to her
magnificent position by pure merit,--her graces, her virtues, and her
abilities having won the respect and admiration of the overlauded but
sagacious King of France. And yet she was well born, so far as blood is
concerned, since the Protestant family of D'Aubigne--to which she
belonged--was one of the oldest in the kingdom. Her father, however, was
a man of reckless extravagance and infamous habits, and committed
follies and crimes which caused him to be imprisoned in Bordeaux. While
in prison he compromised the character of the daughter of his jailer,
and by her means escaped to America. He returned, and was again
arrested. His wife followed him to his cell; and it was in this cell
that the subject of this lecture was born (1635). Subsequently her
miserable father obtained his release, sailed with his family to
Martinique, and died there in extreme poverty. His wife, heart-broken,
returned to France, and got her living by her needle, until she too,
worn out by poverty and misfortune, died, leaving her daughter to
strive, as she had striven, with a cold and heartless world.

This daughter became at first a humble dependent on one of her rich
relatives; and "the future wife of Louis XIV. could be seen on a morning
assisting the coachmen to groom the horses, or following a flock of
turkeys, with her breakfast in a basket." But she was beautiful and
bright, and panted, like most ambitious girls, for an entrance into what
is called "society." Society at that time in France was brilliant,
intellectual, and wicked. "There was the blending of calculating
interest and religious asceticism," when women of the world, after
having exhausted its pleasures, retired to cloisters, and "sacrificed
their natural affections to family pride." It was an age of intellectual
idlers, when men and women, having nothing to do, spent their time in
_salons_, and learned the art of conversation, which was followed by the
art of letter-writing.

To reach the _salons_ of semi-literary and semi-fashionable people,
where rank and wealth were balanced by wit, became the desire of the
young Mademoiselle d'Aubigne. Her entrance into society was effected in
a curious way. At that time there lived in Paris (about the year 1650) a
man whose house was the centre of gay and literary people,--those who
did not like the stiffness of the court or the pedantries of the Hotel
de Rambouillet. His name was Scarron,--a popular and ribald poet, a
comic dramatist, a buffoon, a sort of Rabelais, whose inexhaustible wit
was the admiration of the city. He belonged to a good family, and
originally was a man of means. His uncle had been a bishop and his
father a member of the Parliament of Paris. But he had wasted his
substance in riotous living, and was reduced to a small pension from the
Government. His profession was originally that of a priest, and he
continued through life to wear the ecclesiastical garb. He was full of
maladies and miseries, and his only relief was in society. In spite of
his poverty he contrived to give suppers--they would now be called
dinners--which were exceedingly attractive. To his house came the noted
characters of the day,--Mademoiselle de Scudery the novelist, Marigny
the songwriter, Henault the translator of Lucretius, De Grammont the pet
of the court, Chatillon, the duchesses de la Saliere and De Sevigne,
even Ninon de L'Enclos; all bright and fashionable people, whose wit and
raillery were the admiration of the city.

It so happened that to a reception of the Abbe Scarron was brought one
day the young lady destined to play so important a part in the history
of her country. But her dress was too short, which so mortified her in
the splendid circle to which she was introduced that she burst into
tears, and Scarron was obliged to exert all his tact to comfort her. Yet
she made a good impression, since she was beautiful and witty; and a
letter which she wrote to a friend soon after, which letter Scarron
happened to see, was so remarkable, that the crippled dramatist
determined to make her his wife,--she only sixteen, he forty-two; so
infirm that he could not walk, and so poor that the guests frequently
furnished the dishes for the common entertainments. And with all these
physical defects (for his body was bent nearly double), and
notwithstanding that he was one of the coarsest and profanest men of
that ungodly age, she accepted him. What price will not an aspiring
woman pay for social position!--for even a marriage with Scarron was to
her a step in the ladder of social elevation.

Did she love this bloated and crippled sensualist, or was she carried
away by admiration of his brilliant conversation, or was she actuated by
a far-reaching policy? I look upon her as a born female Jesuit,
believing in the principle that the end justifies the means. Nor is such
Jesuitism incompatible with pleasing manners, amiability of temper, and
great intellectual radiance; it equally marked, I can fancy, Jezebel,
Cleopatra, and Catherine de Medicis. Moreover, in France it has long
been the custom for poor girls to seek eligible matches without
reference to love.

It does not seem that this hideous marriage provoked scandal. In fact,
it made the fortune of Mademoiselle d'Aubigne. She now presided at
entertainments which were the gossip of the city, and to which stupid
dukes aspired in vain; for Scarron would never have a dull man at his
table, not even if he were loaded with diamonds and could trace his
pedigree to the paladins of Charlemagne. But by presiding at parties
made up of the _elite_ of the fashionable and cultivated society of
Paris, this ambitious woman became acquainted with those who had
influence at court; so that when her husband died, and she was cut off
from his life-pension and reduced to poverty, she was recommended to
Madame de Montespan, the King's mistress, as the governess of her
children. It was a judicious appointment. Madame Scarron was then
thirty-four, in the pride of womanly grace and dignity, with rare
intellectual gifts and accomplishments. There is no education more
effective than that acquired by constant intercourse with learned and
witty people. Even the dinner-table is no bad school for one naturally
bright and amiable. There is more to be learned from conversation than
from books. The living voice is a great educator.

Madame Scarron, on the death of her husband, was already a queen of
society. As the governess of Montespan's children,--which was a great
position, since it introduced her to the notice of the King himself, the
fountain of all honor and promotion,--her habits of life were somewhat
changed. Life became more sombre by the irksome duties of educating
unruly children, and the forced retirement to which she was necessarily
subjected. She could have lived without this preferment, since the
pension of her husband was restored to her, and could have made her
_salon_ the resort of the best society. But she had deeper designs. Not
to be the queen of a fashionable circle did she now aspire, but to be
the leader of a court.

But this aim she was obliged to hide. It could only be compassed by
transcendent tact, prudence, patience, and good sense, all of which
qualities she possessed in an eminent degree. It was necessary to gain
the confidence of an imperious and jealous mistress--which was only to
be done by the most humble assiduities--before she could undermine her
in the affections of the King. She had also to gain his respect and
admiration without allowing any improper intimacy. She had to disarm
jealousy and win confidence; to be as humble in address as she was
elegant in manners, and win a selfish man from pleasure by the richness
of her conversation and the severity of her own morals.

Little by little she began to exercise a great influence over the mind
of the King when he was becoming wearied of the railleries of his
exacting favorite, and when some of the delusions of life were beginning
to be dispelled. He then found great solace and enjoyment in the society
of Madame Scarron, whom he enriched, enabling her to purchase the estate
of Maintenon and to assume its name. She soothed his temper, softened
his resentments, and directed his attention to a new field of thought
and reflection. She was just the opposite of Montespan in almost
everything. The former won by the solid attainments of the mind; the
latter by her sensual charms. The one talked on literature, art, and
religious subjects; the other on fetes, balls, reviews, and the glories
of the court and its innumerable scandals. Maintenon reminded the King
of his duties without sermonizing or moralizing, but with the insidious
flattery of a devout worshipper of his genius and power; Montespan
directed his mind to pleasures which had lost their charm. Maintenon was
always amiable and sympathetic; Montespan provoked the King by her
resentments, her imperious exactions, her ungovernable fits of temper,
her haughty sarcasm. Maintenon was calm, modest, self-possessed,
judicious, wise; Montespan was passionate, extravagant, unreasonable.
Maintenon always appealed to the higher nature of the King; Montespan to
the lower. The one was a sincere friend, dissuading from folly; the
other an exacting lover, demanding perpetually new favors, to the injury
of the kingdom and the subversion of the King's dignity of character.
The former ruled through the reason; the latter through the passions.
Maintenon was irreproachable in her morals, preserved her self-respect,
and tolerated no improper advances, having no great temptations to
subdue, steadily adhering to that policy which she knew would in time
make her society indispensable; Montespan was content to be simply
mistress, with no forecast of the future, and with but little regard to
the interests or honor of her lord. Maintenon became more attractive
every day from the variety of her intellectual gifts and her unwearied
efforts to please and instruct; Montespan, although a bright woman,
amidst the glories of a dazzling court, at last wearied, disgusted and
repelled. And yet the woman who gradually supplanted Madame de Montespan
by superior radiance of mind and soul openly remained her friend,
through all her waning influence, and pretended to come to her rescue.

The friendship of the King for Madame de Maintenon began as early as
1672; and during the twelve years she was the governess of Montespan's
children she remained discreet and dignified. "I dismiss him," said she,
"always despairing, never repulsed." What a transcendent actress! What
astonishing tact! What shrewdness blended with self-control! She
conformed herself to his tastes and notions. At the supper-tables of her
palsied husband she had been gay, unstilted, and simple; but with the
King she became formal, prudish, ceremonious, fond of etiquette, and
pharisaical in her religious life. She discreetly ruled her royal lover
in the name of virtue and piety. In 1675 the King created her Marquise
de Maintenon.

On the disgrace of Madame de Montespan, when the King was forty-six,
Madame de Maintenon still remained at court, having a conspicuous office
in the royal household as mistress of the robes to the Dauphiness, so
that her nearness to the King created no scandal. She was now a stately
woman, with sparkling black eyes, a fine complexion, beautiful teeth,
and exceedingly graceful manners. The King could not now live without
her, for he needed a counsellor whom he could trust. It must be borne in
mind that the great Colbert, on whose shoulders had been laid the
burdens of the monarchy, had recently died. On the death of the Queen
(1685), Louis made Madame de Maintenon his wife, she being about fifty
and he forty-seven.

This private and secret marriage was never openly divulged during the
life of the King, although generally surmised. This placed Madame de
Maintenon--for she went by this title--in a false position. To say the
least, it was humiliating amid all the splendors to which she was
raised; for if she were a lawful wife, she was not a queen. Some,
perhaps, supposed she was in the position of those favorites whose fate,
again and again, has been to fall.

One thing is certain,--the King would have made her his mistress years
before; but to this she would never consent. She was too politic, too
ambitious, too discreet, to make that immense mistake. Yet after the
dismissal of Montespan she seemed to be such, until she had with
transcendent art and tact attained her end. It is a flaw in her
character that she was willing so long to be aspersed; showing that
power was dearer to her than reputation. Bossuet, when consulted by the
King as to his intended marriage, approved of it only on the ground that
it was better to make a foolish marriage than violate the seventh
commandment. La Chaise, the Jesuit confessor, who travelled in a coach
and six, recommended it, because Madame de Maintenon was his tool. But
Louvois felt the impropriety as well as Fenelon, and advised the King
not thus to commit himself. The Dauphin was furious. The Archbishop of
Paris simply did his duty in performing the ceremony.

Doubtless reasons of State imperatively demanded that the marriage
should not openly be proclaimed, and still more that the widow of
Scarron should not be made the Queen of France. Louis was too much of a
politician, and too proud a man, to make this concession. Had he raised
his unacknowledged wife to the throne, it would have resulted in
political complications which would have embarrassed his whole
subsequent reign. He dared not do this. He could not thus scandalize all
Europe, and defy all the precedents of France. And no one knew this
better than Madame de Maintenon herself. She appeared to be satisfied if
she could henceforth live in virtuous relations. Her religious scruples
are to be respected. It is wonderful that she gained as much as she did
in that proud, cynical, and worldly court, and from the proudest monarch
in the world. But Louis was not happy without her,--a proof of his
respect and love. At the age of forty-seven he needed the counsels of a
wife amid his increasing embarrassments. He was already wearied,
sickened, and disgusted: he now wanted repose, friendship, and fidelity.
He certainly was guilty of no error in marrying one of the most gifted
women of his kingdom,--perhaps the most accomplished woman of the age,
interesting and even beautiful at fifty. She was then in the perfection
of mental and moral fascinations. He made no other sacrifice than of his
pride. His fidelity to his wife, and his constant devotion to her until
he died, proved the sincerity and depth of his attachment; and her
marvellous influence over him was on the whole good, with the exception
of her religious intolerance.

As the wife of Louis XIV. the power of Madame de Maintenon became almost
unbounded. Her ambition was gratified, and her end was accomplished. She
was the dispenser of court favors, the arbiter of fortunes, the real
ruler of the land. Her reign was political as well as social. She sat in
the cabinet of the King, and gave her opinions on State matters whenever
she was asked. Her counsels were so wise that they generally prevailed.
No woman before or after her ever exerted so great an influence on the
fortunes of a kingdom as did the widow of the poet Scarron. The court
which she adorned and ruled was not so brilliant as it had been under
Madame de Montespan, but was still magnificent. She made it more
decorous, though, probably more dull. She was opposed to all foolish,
expenditures. She discouraged the endless fetes and balls and
masquerades which made her predecessor so popular. But still Versailles
glittered with unparalleled wonders: the fountains played; grand
equipages crowded the park; the courtiers blazed in jewels and velvets
and satins; the salons were filled with all who were illustrious in
France; princes, nobles, ambassadors, generals, statesmen, and ministers
rivalled one another in the gorgeousness of their dresses; women of rank
and beauty displayed their graces in the Salon de Venus.

The articles of luxury and taste that were collected in the countless
rooms of that vast palace almost exceeded belief. And all these blazing
rooms were filled, even to the attic, with aristocratic servitors, who
poured out perpetual incense to the object of their united idolatry, who
sat on almost an Olympian throne. Never was a monarch served by such
idolaters. "Bossuet and Fenelon taught his children; Bourdaloue and
Massillon adorned his chapel; La Chaise and Le Tellier directed his
conscience; Boileau and Moliere sharpened his wit; La Rochefoucauld
cultivated his taste; La Fontaine wrote his epigrams; Racine chronicled
his wars; De Turenne commanded his armies; Fouquet and Colbert arranged
his finances; Mole and D'Aguesseau pronounced his judgments; Louvois
laid out his campaigns; Vauban fortified his citadels; Riquet dug his
canals; Mansard constructed his palaces; Poussin decorated his chambers;
Le Brun painted his ceilings; Le Notre laid out his grounds; Girardon
sculptured his fountains; Montespan arranged his fetes; while La
Valliere, La Fayette, and Sevigne--all queens of beauty--displayed their
graces in the Salon de Venus." What an array of great men and brilliant
women to reflect the splendors of an absolute throne! Never was there
such an _eclat_ about a court; it was one of the wonders of the age.

And Louis never lost his taste for this outward grandeur. He was
ceremonious and exacting to the end. He never lost the sense of his own
omnipotence. In his latter days he was sad and dejected, but never
exhibited his weakness among his worshippers. He was always dignified
and self-possessed. He loved pomp as much as Michael Angelo loved art.
Even in his bitterest reverses he still maintained the air of the "Grand
Monarque." Says Henri Martin:--

"Etiquette, without accepting the extravagant restraints which the court
of France endured, and which French genius would not support, assumed an
unknown extension, proportioned to the increase of royal splendor. It
was adapted to serve the monarchy at the expense of the aristocracy,
and tended to make functions prevail over birth. The great dukes and
peers were multiplied in order to reduce their importance, and the King
gave the marshals precedence over them. The court was a scientific and
complicated machine which Louis guided with sovereign skill. At all
hours, in all places, in the most trifling circumstances of life, he was
always king. His affability never contradicted itself; he expressed
interest and kindliness to all; he showed himself indulgent to errors
that could not be repaired; his majesty was tempered by a grave
familiarity; and he wholly refrained from those pointed and ironical
speeches which so cruelly wound when falling from the lips of a man that
none can answer. He taught all, by his example, the most exquisite
courtesy to women. Manners acquired unequalled elegance. The fetes
exceeded everything which romance had dreamed, in which the fairy
splendors that wearied the eye were blended with the noblest pleasures
of the intellect. But whether appearing in mythological ballets, or
riding in tournaments in the armor of the heroes of antiquity, or
presiding at plays and banquets in his ordinary apparel with his thick
flowing hair, his loose surtout blazing with gold and silver, and his
profusion of ribbons and plumes, always his air and port had something
unique,--always he was the first among all. His whole life was like a
work of art; and the role was admirably played, because he played it

The King was not only sacred, but he was supposed to have different
blood in his veins from other men. His person was inviolable. He
reigned, it was universally supposed, by divine right. He was a divinely
commissioned personage, like Saul and David. He did not reign because he
was able or powerful or wealthy, because he was a statesman or a
general, but because he had a right to reign which no one disputed. This
adoration of royalty was not only universal, but it was deeply seated in
the minds of men, and marked strongly all the courtiers and generals and
bishops and poets who surrounded the throne of Louis,--Bossuet and
Fenelon, as well as Colbert and Louvois; Racine and Moliere, as well as
Conde and Turenne. Especially the nobility of the realm looked up to the
king as the source and centre of their own honors and privileges. Even
the people were proud to recognize in him a sort of divinity, and all
persons stood awe-struck in the presence of royalty. All this reverence
was based on ideas which have ever moved the world,--such as sustained
popes in the Middle Ages, and emperors in ancient Borne, and patriarchal
rule among early Oriental peoples. Religion, as well as law and
patriotism, invested monarchs with this sacred and inalienable
authority, never greater than when Louis XIV. began to reign.

But with all his grandeur Louis XIV. did not know how to avail himself
of the advantages which fortune and accident placed in his way. He was
simply magnificent, like Xerxes,--like a man who had entered into a
vast inheritance which he did not know what to do with. He had no
profound views of statesmanship, like Augustus or Tiberius. He had no
conception of what the true greatness of a country consisted in. Hence
his vast treasures were spent in useless wars, silly pomps, and
inglorious pleasures. His grand court became the scene of cabals and
rivalries, scandals and follies. His wars, from which he expected glory,
ended only in shame; his great generals passed away without any to take
their place; his people, instead of being enriched by a development of
national resources, became poor and discontented; while his persecutions
decimated his subjects and sowed the seeds of future calamities. Even
the learned men who shed lustre around his throne prostituted their
talents to nurse his egotism, and did but little to elevate the national
character. Neither Pascal with his intense hostility to spiritual
despotism, nor Racine with the severe taste which marked the classic
authors of Greece and Rome, nor Fenelon with his patriotic enthusiasm
and clear perception of the moral strength of empires, dared to give
full scope to his genius, but all were obliged to veil their sentiments
in vague panegyrics of ancient heroes. At the close of the seventeenth
century the great intellectual lights had disappeared under the
withering influences of despotism,--as in ancient Rome under the
emperors all manly independence had fled,--and literature went through
an eclipse. That absorbing egotism which made Louis XIV. jealous of the
fame of Conde and Luxembourg, or fearful of the talents of Louvois and
Colbert, or suspicious of the influence of Racine and Fenelon, also led
him to degrade his nobility by menial offices, and institute in his
court a burdensome formality.

In spite of his great abilities, no monarch ever reaped a severer
penalty for his misgovernment than did Louis. Like Solomon, he lived
long enough to see the bursting of all the bubbles which had floated
before his intoxicated brain. All his delusions were dispelled; he was
oppressed with superstitious fears; he was weary of the very pleasures
of which he once was fondest; he saw before him a gulf of national
disasters; he was obliged to melt up the medallions which commemorated
his victories, to furnish bread for starving soldiers; he lost the
provinces he had seized; he saw the successive defeat of all his
marshals and the annihilation of his veteran armies; he was deprived of
his children and grandchildren by the most dreadful malady known to that
generation; a feeble infant was the heir of his dominions; he saw
nothing before him but national disgrace; he found no counsellors whom
he could trust, no friends to whom he could pour out his sorrows; the
infirmities of age oppressed his body; the agonies of remorse disturbed
his soul; the fear of hell became the foundation of his religion, for he
must have felt that he had a fearful reckoning with the King of kings.

Such was the man to whom the best days of Madame de Maintenon were
devoted; and she shared his confidence to the last. She did all she
could to alleviate his sorrows, for a more miserable man than Louis XIV.
during the last twenty years of his life never was seated on a throne.
Well might his wife exclaim, "Save those who occupy the highest places,
I know of none more unhappy than those who envy them." This great woman
attempted to make her husband a religious man, and succeeded so far as a
rigid regard to formalities and technical observances can make a man

It may be asked how this formal and proper woman was enabled to exert
upon the King so great an influence; for she was the real ruler of the
land. No woman ever ruled with more absolute sway, from Queen Esther to
Madame de Pompadour, than did the widow of the profane and crippled
Scarron. It cannot be doubted that she exerted this influence by mere
moral and intellectual force,--the power of physical beauty retreating
before the superior radiance of wisdom and virtue. La Valliere had
wearied and Montespan had disgusted even a sensual king, with all their
remarkable attractions; but Maintenon, by her prudence, her tact, her
wisdom, and her friendship, retained the empire she had won,--thus
teaching the immortal lesson that nothing but respect constitutes a sure
foundation for love, or can hold the heart of a selfish man amid the
changes of life. Whatever the promises made emphatic by passion,
whatever the presents or favors given as tokens of everlasting ties,
whatever the raptures consecrating the endearments of a plighted troth,
whatever the admiration called out by the scintillations of genius,
whatever the gratitude arising from benefits bestowed in sympathy, all
will vanish in the heart of a man unless confirmed by qualities which
extort esteem,--the most impressive truth that can be presented to the
mind of woman; her encouragement if good, her sentence to misery if bad,
so far as her hopes centre around an earthly idol.

Now, Madame de Maintenon, whatever her defects, her pharisaism, her
cunning, her ambition, and her narrow religious intolerance, was still,
it would seem, always respected, not only by the King himself,--a great
discerner of character,--but by the court which she controlled, and even
by that gay circle of wits who met around the supper-tables of her first
husband. The breath of scandal never tarnished her reputation; she was
admired by priests as well as by nobles. From this fact, which is well
attested, we infer that she acted with transcendent discretion as the
governess of the Duke of Maine, even when brought into the most
intimate relations with the King; and that when reigning at the court
after the death of the Queen, she must have been supposed to have a
right to all the attentions which she received from Louis XIV. And what
is very remarkable about this woman is, that she should so easily have
supplanted Madame de Montespan in the full blaze of her dazzling beauty,
when the King was in the maturity of his power and in all the pride of
external circumstance,--she, born a Protestant, converted to Catholicism
in her youth under protest, poor, dependent, a governess, the widow of a
vulgar buffoon, and with antecedents which must have stung to the quick
so proud a man as was Louis XIV. With his severe taste, his experience,
his discernment, with all the cynical and hostile influences of a proud
and worldly court, and after a long and searching intimacy, it is hard
to believe that he could have loved and honored her to his death if she
had not been worthy of his esteem. And when we remember that for nearly
forty years she escaped the scandals which made those times unique in
infamy, we are forced to concede that on the whole she must have been a
good woman. To retain such unbounded power for over thirty years is a
very remarkable thing to do.

Madame de Maintenon, however, though wise and virtuous, made many grave
mistakes, as she had many defects of character. Great as she was, she
has to answer for political crimes into which, from her narrow religious
prejudices, she led the King.

The most noticeable feature in the influence which Madame de Maintenon
exercised on the King was in inciting a spirit of religious intolerance.
And this appeared even long before Madame de Montespan had lost her
ascendency. For ten years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
there had been continual persecution of the Protestants in France, on
the ground that they were heretics, though not rebels. And the same
persecuting spirit was displayed in reference to the Jansenists, who
were Catholics, and whose only sin was intellectual boldness. Anybody
who thought differently from the monarch incurred the royal displeasure.
Intellectual freedom and honesty were the real reasons of the disgrace
of Racine and Fenelon. For the King was a bigot in religion as well as a
despot on a throne. He fancied that he was very pious. He was regular in
all his religious duties. He was an earnest and conscientious adherent
to all the doctrines of the Catholic Church. In his judgment, a
departure from those doctrines should be severely punished. He was as
sincere as Torquemada, or Alva, or Saint Dominic. His wife encouraged
this bigotry, and even stimulated his resentments toward those who
differed from him.

At last, in 1685, the fatal blow was struck which decimated the
subjects of an irresponsible king. The glorious edict which Henry IV.
had granted, and which even Richelieu and Mazarin had respected, was
repealed. There was no political necessity for the crime. It sprang from
unalloyed religious intolerance; and it was as suicidal as it was
uncalled for and cruel. It was an immense political blunder, which no
enlightened monarch would ever have committed, and which none but a cold
and narrow woman would ever have encouraged. There was no excuse or
palliation for this abominable persecution any more than there was for
the burning of John Huss. It had not even as much to justify it as had
the slaughter of St. Bartholomew, for the Huguenots were politically
hostile and dangerous. It was an act of wanton cruelty incited by
religious bigotry. I wonder how a woman so kind-hearted, so intelligent,
and so politic as Madame de Maintenon doubtless was, could have
encouraged the King to a measure which undermined his popularity, which
cut the sinews of natural strength, and raised up implacable enemies in
every Protestant country. I can palliate her detestable bigotry only on
the ground that she was the slave of an order of men who have ever
proved themselves to be the inveterate foes of human freedom, and who
marked their footsteps, wherever they went, by a trail of blood. Louis
was equally their blinded tool. The Order--the "Society of Jesus"--was
created to extirpate heresy, and in this instance it was carried out to
the bitter end. The persecution of the Protestants under Louis XIV. was
the most cruel and successful of all known persecutions in ancient or
modern times. It annihilated the Protestants, so far as there were any
left openly to defend their cause. It drove out of France from two
hundred thousand to four hundred thousand of her best people, and
executed or confined to the galleys as many more, They died like sheep
led to the slaughter; they died not with arms, but Bibles, in their
hands. I have already presented some details of that inglorious
persecution in my lecture on Louis XIV., and will not repeat what I
there said. It was deemed by Madame de Maintenon a means of grace to the
King,--for in her way she always sought his conversion. And when the
bloody edict went forth for the slaughter of the best people in the
land, she wrote that "the King was now beginning to think seriously of
his salvation. If God preserve him, there will be no longer but one
religion in the kingdom." This foul stain on her character did not
proceed from cruelty of disposition, but from mistaken zeal. What a
contrast her conduct was to the policy of Elizabeth! Yet she was no
worse than Le Tellier, La Chaise, and other fanatics. Religious
intolerance was one of the features of the age and of the Roman
Catholic Church.

But religious bigotry is eternally odious to enlightened reason. No
matter how interesting a man or woman may be in most respects, if
stained with cruel intolerance in religious opinions, he or she will be
repulsive. It left an indelible stain on the character of the most
brilliant and gifted woman of her times, and makes us forget her many
virtues. With all her excellences, she goes down in history as a cold
and intolerant woman whom we cannot love. We cannot forget that in a
great degree through her influence the Edict of Nantes was repealed.

The persecution of the Protestants, however, partially reveals the
narrow intolerance of Madame de Maintenon. She sided but with those
whose influence was directed to the support of the recognized dogmas of
the Church in their connection with the absolute rule of kings. The
interests of Catholic institutions have ever been identical with
absolutism. Bossuet, the ablest theologian and churchman which the
Catholic Church produced in the seventeenth century, gave the whole
force of his vast intellect to uphold an unlimited royal authority. He
saw in the bold philosophical speculations of Descartes, Malebranche,
Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Locke an insidious undermining of the doctrines
of the Church, an intellectual freedom whose logical result would be
fatal alike to Church and State. His eagle eye penetrated to the core of
every system of human thought. He saw the logical and necessary results
of every theory which Pantheists, or Rationalists, or Quietists, or
Jansenists advanced. Whatever did not support the dogmas of mediaeval
and patriotic theologians, such as the Papal Church indorsed, was
regarded by him with suspicion and aversion. Every theory or speculation
which tended to emancipate the mind, or weaken the authority of the
Church, or undermine an absolute throne, was treated by him with
dogmatic intolerance and persistent hatred. He made war alike on the
philosophers, the Jansenists, and the Quietists, whether they remained
in the ranks of the Church or not. It was the dangerous consequences of
these speculations pushed to their logical result which he feared and
detested, and which no other eye than his was able to perceive.

Bossuet communicated his spirit to Madame de Maintenon and to the King,
who were both under his influence as to the treatment of religious or
philosophical questions. Louis and his wife were both devout supporters
of orthodoxy,--that is, the received doctrines of the Church,--partly
from conservative tendencies, and partly from the connection of
established religious institutions with absolutism in government.
Whatever was established, was supported because it was established. They
would suffer no innovation, not even in philosophy. Anything progressive
was abhorred as much as anything destructive. When Fenelon said, "I
love my family better than myself, my country better than my family, and
the human race better than my country," he gave utterance to a sentiment
which was revolutionary in its tendency. When he declared in his
"Telemaque" what were the duties of kings,--that they reigned for the
benefit of their subjects rather than for themselves,--he undermined the
throne which he openly supported. It was the liberal spirit which
animated Fenelon, as well as the innovations to which his opinions
logically led, which arrayed against him the king who admired him, the
woman who had supported him, and the bishop who was jealous of him.
Although he charmed everybody with whom he associated by the angelic
sweetness of his disposition, his refined courtesies of manner, and his
sparkling but inoffensive wit,--a born courtier as well as philosopher,
the most interesting and accomplished man of his generation,--still,
neither Bossuet nor Madame de Maintenon nor the King could tolerate his
teachings, so pregnant were they with innovations; and he was exiled to
his bishopric. Madame de Maintenon, who once delighted in Fenelon,
learned to detest him as much as Bossuet did, when the logical tendency
of his writings was seen. She would rivet the chains of slavery on the
human intellect as well as on the devotees of Rome or the courtiers of
the King, while Fenelon would have emancipated the race itself in the
fervor and sincerity of his boundless love.

This hostility to Fenelon was not caused entirely by the political
improvements he would have introduced, but because his all-embracing
toleration sought to protect the sentimental pantheism which Madame
Guyon inculcated in her maxims of disinterested love and voluntary
passivity of the soul towards God, in opposition to that rationalistic
pantheism which Spinoza defended, and into which he had inexorably
pushed with unexampled logic the deductions of Malebranche. The men who
finally overturned the fabric of despotism which Richelieu constructed
were the philosophers. The clear but narrow intellect of the King and
his wife instinctively saw in them the natural enemies of the throne;
and hence they were frowned upon, if not openly persecuted.

We are forced therefore to admit that the intolerance of Madame de
Maintenon, repulsive as it was, arose in part, like the intolerance of
Bossuet, from zeal to uphold the institutions and opinions on which the
Church and the throne were equally based. The Jesuits would call such a
woman a nursing mother of the Church, a protector of the cause of
orthodoxy, the watchful guardian of the royal interests and those of all
established institutions. Any ultra-conservatism, logically carried out,
would land any person on the ground where she stood.

But while Madame de Maintenon was a foe to everything like heresy, or
opposition to the Catholic Church, or true intellectual freedom, she was
the friend of education. She was the founder of the celebrated School of
St. Cyr, where three hundred young ladies, daughters of impoverished
nobles, were educated gratuitously. She ever took the greatest interest
in this school, and devoted to it all the time her numerous engagements
would permit. She visited it every day, and was really its president and
director. There was never a better school for aristocratic girls in a
Catholic country. She directed their studies and superintended their
manners, and brought to bear on their culture her own vast experience.
If Bossuet was a born priest, she was a born teacher. It was for the
amusement of the girls that Racine was induced by her to write one of
his best dramas,--"Queen Esther," a sort of religious tragedy in the
severest taste, which was performed by the girls in the presence of the
most distinguished people of the court.

Madame de Maintenon exerted her vast influence in favor of morality and
learning. She rewarded genius and scholarship. She was the patron of
those distinguished men who rendered important services to France,
whether statesmen, divines, generals, or scholars. She sought to bring
to the royal notice eminent merit in every department of life within the
ranks of orthodoxy. A poet, or painter, or orator, who gave remarkable
promise, was sure of her kindness; and there were many such. For the
world is full at all times of remarkable young men and women, but there
are very few remarkable men at the age of fifty.

And her influence on the court was equally good. She discouraged
levities, gossip, and dissipation. If the palace was not so gay as
during the reign of Madame de Montespan, it was more decorous and more
intellectual. It became fashionable to go to church, and to praise good
sermons and read books of casuistry. "Tartuffe grew pale before
Escobar." Bossuet and Bourdaloue were equal oracles with Moliere and
Racine. Great preachers were all the fashion. The court became very
decorous, if it was hypocritical. The King interested himself in
theological discussions, and became as austere as formerly he was gay
and merry. He regretted his wars and his palace-building; for both were
discouraged by Madame de Maintenon, who perceived that they impoverished
the nation. She undertook the mighty task of reforming the court itself,
as well as the morals of the King; and she partially succeeded. The
proud Nebuchadnezzar whom she served was at last made to confess that
there was a God to whom he was personally responsible; and he was
encouraged to bear with dignity those sad reverses which humiliated his
pride, and drank without complaint the dregs of that bitter cup which
retributive justice held out in mercy before he died. It was his wife
who revealed the deceitfulness, the hypocrisy, the treachery, and the
heartlessness of that generation of vipers which he had trusted and
enriched. She was more than the guardian of his interests; she was his
faithful friend, who dissuaded him from follies. So that outwardly Louis
XIV. became a religious man, and could perhaps have preached a sermon on
the vanity of a worldly life,--that whatever is born in vanity must end
in vanity.

It is greatly to the credit of Madame de Maintenon that she was
interested in whatever tended to improve the morals of the people or to
develop the intellect. She was one of those strong-minded women who are
impressible by grand sentiments. She would have admired Madame de Stael
or Madame Roland,--not their opinions, but their characters. Politics
was perhaps the most interesting subject to her, as it has ever been to
very cultivated women in France; and it was with the details of cabinets
and military enterprises that she was most familiar. It was this
political knowledge which made her so wise a counsellor and so necessary
a companion to the King. But her reign was nevertheless a usurpation.
She triumphed in consequence of the weakness of her husband more than by
her own strength; and the nation never forgave her. She outraged the
honor of the King, and detracted from the dignity of the royal station.
Louis XIV. certainly had the moral right to marry her, as a nobleman may
espouse a servant-girl; but it was a _faux-pas_ which the proud
idolaters of rank could not excuse.

And for this usurpation Madame de Maintenon paid no inconsiderable a
penalty. She was insulted by the royal family to the day of her death.
The Dauphin would not visit her, even when the King led him to the door
of her apartments. The courtiers mocked her behind her back. Her rivals
thrust upon her their envenomed libels. Even Racine once so far forgot
himself as to allude in her presence to the miserable farces of the poet
Scarron,--an unpremeditated and careless insult which she never forgot
or forgave. Moreover, in all her grandeur she was doomed to the most
exhaustive formalities and duties; for the King exacted her constant
services, which wearied and disgusted her. She was born for freedom, but
was really a slave, although she wore gilded fetters. She was not what
one would call an unhappy or disappointed woman, since she attained the
end to which she had aspired. But she could not escape humiliations. She
was in a false position. Her reputation was aspersed. She was only a
wife whose marriage was concealed; she was not a queen. All she gained,
she extorted. In rising to the exalted height of ruling the court of
France she yet abdicated her throne as an untrammelled queen of society,
and became the slave of a pompous, ceremonious, self-conscious,
egotistical, selfish, peevish, self-indulgent, tyrannical, exacting,
priest-ridden, worn-out, disenchanted old voluptuary. And when he died
she was treated as a usurper rather than a wife, and was obliged to
leave the palace, where she would have been insulted, and take up her
quarters in the convent she had founded. The King did not leave her by
his will a large fortune, so that she was obliged to curtail her

Madame de Maintenon lived to be eighty-four, and retained her
intellectual faculties to the last, retiring to the Abbey of St. Cyr on
the death of the King in 1715, and surviving him but four years. She was
beloved and honored by those who knew her intimately. She was the idol
of the girls of St. Cyr, who worshipped the ground on which she trod.
Yet she made no mark in history after the death of Louis XIV. All her
greatness was but the reflection of his glory. Her life, successful as
it was, is but a confirmation of the folly of seeking a position which
is not legitimate. No position is truly desirable which is a false one,
which can be retained only by art, and which subjects one to humiliation
and mortifications. I have great admiration for the many excellent
qualities of this extraordinary and gifted woman, although I know that
she is not a favorite with historians. She is not endeared to the heart
of the nation she indirectly ruled. She is positively disliked by a
large class, not merely for her narrow religious intolerance, but even
for the arts by which she gained so great an influence. Yet, liked or
disliked, it would be difficult to find in French history a greater or
more successful woman.


Henri Martin's History of France; Biographic Universelle; Miss Pardoe's
History of the Court of Louis XIV.; Lacretelle's History of France; St.
Simon's Memoires; Voltaire's Siecle de Louis XIV.; Guizot's History of
France; Early Days of Madame de Maintenon, Eclectic Magazine, xxxii. 67;
Life and Character of Madame de Maintenon, Quarterly Review, xcvi. 394;
Fortnightly Review, xxv. 607; Temple Bar, Iv. 243; Fraser, xxxix. 231;
Memoires of Louis XIV., Quarterly Review, xix. 46; James's Life and
Times of Louis XIV.; James's Life of Madame de Maintenon; Secret
Correspondence of Madame de Maintenon; Taine on the Ancien Regime;
Browning's History of the Huguenots, Edinburgh Review, xcix. 454;
Butler's Lives of Fenelon and Bossuet; Abbe Ledieu's Memoire de Bossuet;
Bentley, Memoirs de Madame de Montespan, xlviii. 309; De Bausset's Life
of Fenelon.


* * * * *

A.D. 1660-1744.


In the career of Madame de Maintenon we have seen in a woman an
inordinate ambition to rise in the world and control public affairs. In
the history of the Duchess of Marlborough, we see the same ambition, the
same love of power, the same unscrupulous adaptation of means to an end.
Yet the aim and ends of these two remarkable political women were
different. The Frenchwoman had in view the reform of a wicked court, the
interests of education, the extirpation of heresy, the elevation of men
of genius, the social and religious improvement of a great nation, as
she viewed it, through a man who bore absolute sway. The Englishwoman
connived at political corruptions, was indifferent to learning and
genius, and exerted her great influence, not for the good of her
country, but to advance the fortunes of her family. Madame de Maintenon,
if narrow and intolerant, was unselfish, charitable, religious, and
patriotic; the Duchess of Marlborough was selfish, grasping,
avaricious, and worldly in all her aspirations. Both were
ambitious,--the one to benefit the country which she virtually ruled,
and the other to accumulate honors and riches by cabals and intrigues in
the court of a weak woman whom she served and despised. Madame de
Maintenon, in a greater position, as the wife of the most powerful
monarch in Christendom, was gentle, amiable, condescending, and
kind-hearted; the Duchess of Marlborough was haughty, insolent, and
acrimonious. Both were beautiful, bright, witty, and intellectual; but
the Frenchwoman was immeasurably more cultivated, and was impressible by
grand sentiments.

And yet the Duchess of Marlborough was a great woman. She was the most
prominent figure in the Court of Queen Anne, and had a vast influence on
the politics of her day. Her name is associated with great statesmen and
generals. She occupied the highest social position of any woman in
England after that of the royal family. She had the ear and the
confidence of the Queen. The greatest offices were virtually at her
disposal. Around her we may cluster the leading characters and events of
the age of Queen Anne.

Sarah Jennings, the future Duchess of Marlborough, was born in 1660. She
belonged to a good though not a noble family, which for many generations
possessed a good estate in Hertfordshire. Her grandfather, Sir John
Jennings, was a zealous adherent to the royal cause before the
Revolution, and received the Order of the Bath, in company with his
patron, Charles I., then Prince of Wales. When Sarah was twelve years of
age, she found a kind friend in the Duchess of York, Mary Beatrice
Eleanora, Princess of Modena (an adopted daughter of Louis XIV.), who
married James, brother of Charles II. The young girl was thus introduced
to the dangerous circle which surrounded the Duke of York, and she
passed her time, not in profitable studies, but in amusements and
revels. She lived in the ducal household as a playmate of the Princess
Anne, and was a beautiful, bright, and witty young lady, though not well
educated. In the year 1673 she became acquainted with John Churchill, a
colonel of the army and a gentleman of the bedchamber to the Duke of
York,--the latter a post of honor, but of small emolument. He was at
that time twenty-three years of age, a fine-looking and gallant soldier,
who had already distinguished himself at the siege of Tangier. He had
also fought under the banners of Marshal Turenne in the Low Countries,
by whom he was called the "handsome Englishman." At the siege of
Maestricht he further advanced his fortunes, succeeding the famous Earl
of Peterborough in the command of the English troops, then in alliance
with Louis XIV. He was not a man of intellectual culture, nor was he
deeply read. It is said that even his spelling was bad; but his letters
were clear and forcible. He made up his deficiency in education by
irresistibly pleasing manners, remarkable energy, and a coolness of
judgment that was seldom known to err.

His acquaintance with the beautiful Sarah Jennings soon ripened into
love; but he was too poor to marry. Nor had she a fortune. They however
became engaged to each other, and the betrothal continued three years.
It was not till 1678 that the marriage took place. The colonel was
domestic in his tastes and amiable in his temper, and his home was
happy. He was always fond of his wife, although her temper was quick and
her habits exacting. She was proud, irascible, and overbearing, while he
was meek and gentle. In other respects they were equally matched, since
both were greedy, ambitious, and worldly. A great stain, too, rested on
his character; for he had been scandalously intimate with Barbara
Villiers, mistress of Charles II., who gave him L5000, with which he
bought an annuity of L500 a year,--thus enabling him to marry
Miss Jennings.

In 1685 Charles II. died, and was succeeded by his brother the Duke of
York, as James II. The new King rewarded his favorite, Colonel
Churchill, with a Scotch peerage and the command of a regiment of
guards, James's two daughters, the princesses Mary and Anne, now became
great personages. But from mutual jealousy they did not live together
very harmoniously. Mary, the elder daughter, was much the superior of
her sister, and her marriage with William of Orange was
particularly happy.

The Princess Anne was weak and far from being interesting. But she was
inordinately attached to Lady Churchill, who held a high post of honor
and emolument in her household. It does not appear that the attachment
was mutual between these two ladies, but the forms of it were kept up by
Lady Churchill, who had ambitious ends to gain. She gradually acquired
an absolute ascendency over the mind of the Princess, who could not live
happily without her companionship and services. Lady Churchill was at
this time remarkably striking in her appearance, with a clear
complexion, regular features, majestic figure, and beautiful hair, which
was dressed without powder. She also had great power of conversation,
was frank, outspoken, and amusing, but without much tact. The Princess
wrote to her sometimes four times a day, always in the strain of
humility, and seemed utterly dependent upon her. Anne was averse to
reading, spending her time at cards and frivolous pleasures. She was
fond of etiquette, and exacting in trifles. She was praised for her
piety, which would appear however to have been formal and technical.
She was placid, phlegmatic, and had no conversational gifts. She played
tolerably on the guitar, loved the chase, and rode with the hounds until
disabled by the gout, which was brought about by the pleasures of the
table. In 1683 she married Prince George of Denmark, and by him had
thirteen children, not one of whom survived her; most of them died in
infancy. As the daughter of James II., she was of course a Tory in her
political opinions.

Lady Churchill was also at that time a moderate Tory, and fanned the
prejudices of her mistress. But in order to secure a still greater
intimacy and freedom than was consistent with their difference in rank,
the two ladies assumed the names of Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman. In the
correspondence between them the character of the Princess appears to the
greater advantage, since she was at least sincere in her admiration and
friendship. She assumes no superiority in any respect; in her
intellectual dependence she is even humble.

Anne was seemingly disinterested in her friendship with Lady Churchill,
having nothing to gain but services, for which she liberally compensated
her. But the society of a weak woman could not have had much fascination
for so independent and self-sustained a person as was the proud peeress.
It eventually became irksome to her. But there was no outward flaw in
the friendship until Anne ascended the throne in 1702,--not even for
several years after.

The accession of William and Mary in 1689 changed the position of Anne,
to whom the nation now looked as a probable future queen. She was at
that time severely censured for her desertion of her father James, and
her conduct seemed both heartless and frivolous. But she was virtually
in the hands of an unscrupulous woman and the great ministers
of State. On the flight of the King, James II., the Princess
Anne retired to Chatsworth,--the magnificent seat of the Earl of
Devonshire,--accompanied by Lady Churchill, her inseparable companion.

Two days before the coronation of William and Mary, Lord Churchill was
created Earl of Marlborough, and was sworn a member of the Privy Council
and a lord of the bedchamber. This elevation was owing to his military
talents, which no one appreciated better than the King, who however
never personally liked Marlborough, and still less his ambitious wife.
He was no stranger to their boundless cupidity, though he pretended not
to see it. He was politic, not being in a position to dispense with the
services of the ablest military general of his realm.

William III. was a remarkably wise and clearheaded prince, and saw the
dangers which menaced him,--the hostility of Louis XIV., the rebels in
Ireland, and the disaffection among the Jacobite nobility in England,
who secretly favored the exiled monarch. So he rewarded and elevated a
man whom he both admired and despised. William had many sterling
virtues; he was sincere and patriotic and public-spirited; he was a
stanch Protestant of the Calvinistic school, and very attentive to his
religious duties. But with all his virtues and services to the English
nation, he was not a favorite. His reserve, coldness, and cynicism were
in striking contrast with the affability of the Stuarts. He had no
imagination and no graces; he disgusted the English nobles by drinking
Holland gin, and by his brusque manners. But nothing escaped his eagle
eye. On the field of battle he was as ardent and fiery as he was dull
and phlegmatic at Hampton Court, his favorite residence. He was capable
of warm friendships, uninteresting as he seemed to the English nobles;
but he was intimate only with his Dutch favorites, like Bentinck and
Keppel, whom he elevated to English peerages. He spent only a few months
in England each year of the thirteen of his reign, being absorbed in war
most of the time with Louis XIV. and the Irish rebels.

William found that his English throne was anything but a bed of roses.
The Tories, in the tumults and dangers attending the flight of James
II., had promoted his elevation; but they were secretly hostile, and
when dangers had passed, broke out in factious opposition. The
high-church clergy disliked a Calvinistic king in sympathy with
Dissenters. The Irish gave great trouble under Tyrconnel and old Marshal
Schomberg, the latter of whom was killed at the battle of the Boyne. A
large party was always in opposition to the unceasing war with Louis
XIV., whom William hated with implacable animosity.

The Earl of Marlborough, on the accession of William, was a moderate
Tory, and was soon suspected of not being true to his sovereign. His
treason might have resulted in the return of the Stuarts but for the
energy and sagacity of Queen Mary, in whose hands the supreme executive
power was placed by William when absent from the kingdom. She summoned
at once the Parliament, prevented the defection of the navy, and
ferreted out the hostile intrigues, in which the lord-treasurer
Godolphin was also implicated. But for the fortunate naval victory of La
Hogue over the French fleet, which established the naval supremacy of
England, the throne of William and the Protestant succession would have
been seriously endangered; for William was unfortunate in his Flemish

When the King was apprised of the treasonable intrigues which endangered
his throne, he magnanimously pardoned Godolphin and the Duke of
Shrewsbury, but sent Marlborough to the Tower, although he soon after
released him, when it was found that several of the letters which
compromised him had been forged. For some time Marlborough lived in
comparative retirement, while his wife devoted herself to politics and
her duties about the person of the Princess Anne, who was treated very
coldly by her sister the Queen, and was even deprived of her guards. But
the bickerings and quarrels of the royal sisters were suddenly ended by
the death of Mary from the small-pox, which then fearfully raged in
London. The grief of the King was sincere and excessive, as well as that
of the nation, and his affliction softened his character and mitigated
his asperity against Marlborough, Shortly after the death of his queen,
William made Marlborough governor of the Duke of Gloucester, then (1698)
a very promising prince, in the tenth year of his age. This prince, only
surviving son of Anne, had a feeble body, and was unwisely crammed by
Bishop Burnet, his preceptor, and overworked by Marlborough, who taught
him military tactics. Neither his body nor his mind could stand the
strain made upon him, and he was carried off at the age of eleven by
a fever.

The untimely death of the Prince was a great disappointment to the
nation, and cast a gloom over the remaining years of the reign of
William, who from this time declined in health and spirits. One of his
last acts was to appoint the Earl of Marlborough general of the troops
in Flanders, knowing that he was the only man who could successfully
oppose the marshals of France. Only five days before his death the King
sent a recommendation to Parliament for the union of Scotland and
England, and the last act of Parliament to which he gave his consent was
that which fixed the succession in the House of Hanover. At the age of
fifty-one, while planning the campaign which was to make Marlborough
immortal, William received his death-stroke, which was accidental. He
was riding in the park of Hampton Court, when his horse stumbled and he
was thrown, dislocating his collar-bone. The bone was set, and might
have united but for the imprudence of the King, who insisted on going to
Kensington on important business. Fever set in, and in a few days this
noble and heroic king died (March 8, 1702),--the greatest of the English
kings since the Wars of the Roses, to whom the English nation owed the
peaceful settlement of the kingdom in times of treason and rebellion.

The Princess Anne, at the age of thirty-seven, quietly ascended the
throne, and all eyes were at once turned to Marlborough, on whom the
weight of public affairs rested. He was now fifty-three, active, wise,
well poised, experienced, and generally popular in spite of his ambition
and treason. He had, as we have already remarked, been a moderate Tory,
but as he was the advocate of war measures, he now became one of the
leaders of the Whig party. Indeed, he was at this time the foremost man
in England, on account of his great talents as a statesman and
diplomatist as well as general, and for the ascendency of his wife over
the mind of the Queen.

Next to him in power was the lord-treasurer Godolphin, to whom he was
bound by ties of friendship, family alliance, and political principles.
Like Marlborough, Godolphin had in early life been attached to the
service of the House of Stuart. He had been page to Charles II., and
lord chamberlain to Mary of Modena. The Princess Anne, when a young
lady, became attached to this amiable and witty man, and would have
married him if reasons of State had not prevented. After the Revolution
of 1688 his merits were so conspicuous that he was retained in the
service of William and Mary, and raised to the peerage. In sound
judgment, extraordinary sagacity, untiring industry, and unimpeached
integrity, he resembled Lord Burleigh in the reign of Elizabeth, and,
like him, rendered great public services. Grave, economical, cautious,
upright, courteous in manners, he was just the man for the stormy times
in which he lived. He had his faults, being fond of play (the passion of
that age) and of women. Says Swift, who libelled him, as he did every
prominent man of the Whig party, "He could scratch out a song in praise
of his mistress with a pencil on a card, or overflow with tears like a
woman when he had an object to gain."

But the real ruler of the land, on the accession of Anne, was the
favored wife of Marlborough. If ever a subject stood on the very
pinnacle of greatness, it was she. All the foreign ambassadors flattered
her and paid court to her. The greatest nobles solicited or bought of
her the lucrative offices in the gift of the Crown. She was the
dispenser of court favors, as Mesdames de Maintenon and Pompadour were
in France. She was the admiration of gifted circles, in which she
reigned as a queen of society. Poets sang her praises and extolled her
beauty; statesmen craved her influence. Nothing took place at court to
which she was not privy. She was the mainspring of all political cabals
and intrigues; even the Queen treated her with deference, as well as
loaded her with gifts, and Godolphin consulted her on affairs of State.
The military fame of her husband gave her unbounded _eclat_. No
Englishwoman ever had such an exalted social position; she reigned in
_salons_ as well as in the closet of the Queen. And she succeeded in
marrying her daughters to the proudest peers. Her eldest daughter,
Henrietta, was the wife of an earl and prime minister. Her second
daughter, Anne, married Lord Charles Spencer, the only son of the Earl
of Sunderland, one of the leaders of the Whig party and secretary of
state. Her third daughter became the wife of the Earl, afterwards Duke,
of Bridgewater; and the fourth and youngest daughter had for her husband
the celebrated Duke of Montague, grand-master of the Order of the Bath.

Thus did Sarah Jennings rise. Her daughters were married to great nobles
and statesmen, her husband was the most famous general of his age, and
she herself was the favorite and confidential friend and adviser of the
Queen. Upon her were showered riches and honor. She had both influence
and power,--influence from her talents, and power from her position. And
when she became duchess,--after the great victory of Blenheim,--and a
princess of the German Empire, she had nothing more to aspire to in the
way of fortune or favor or rank. She was the first woman of the land,
next to the Queen, whom she ruled while nominally serving her.

There are very few people in this world, whether men or women, who
remain unchanged under the influence of boundless prosperity. So rare
are the exceptions, that the rule is established. Wealth, honor, and
power will produce luxury, pride, and selfishness. How few can hope to
be superior to Solomon, Mohammed, Constantine, Theodosius, Louis XIV.,
Madame de Maintenon, Queen Elizabeth, Maria Theresa, or Napoleon, in
that sublime self-control which looks down on the temptations of earth
with the placid indifference of a Marcus Aurelius! Even prosperous
people in comparatively humble life generally become arrogant and
opinionated, and like to have things in their own way.

Now, Lady Marlborough was both proud by nature and the force of
circumstances. She became an incarnation of arrogance, which she could
not conceal, and which she never sought to control. When she became the
central figure in the Court and in the State, flattered and sought after
wherever she went, before whom the greatest nobles burned their incense,
and whom the people almost worshipped in a country which has ever
idolized rank and power, she assumed airs and gave vent to expressions
that wounded her friend the Queen. Anne bore her friend's intolerable
pride, blended with disdain, for a long time after her accession. But
her own character also began to change. Sovereigns do not like dictation
from subjects, however powerful. And when securely seated on her throne,
Anne began to avow opinions which she had once found it politic to
conceal. She soon became as jealous of her prerogative as her uncle

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