A Conversation Between the Mareschal d’Hocquincourt, and Father Canaye


Being one day at dinner with the Mareschal d’Hocquincourt1, Father Canaye, who din’d there also, insensibly led the discourse to that submission of mind, which Religion requires of us; and having related to us many new Miracles, and some modern Revelations, he concluded, that we ought to avoid, like a plague, those Free-Thinkers, who pretend to examine every thing by Reason.

"Who do you talk to of Free-Thinkers," said the Mareschal, "and who knew them better than I did? Bardouville and St. Ibal were my best friends; they engag’d me in the Party of the Count2, against Cardinal Richelieu : why, I know ’em so well, that I could write a Book of their Sayings. When Bardouville was dead, and St. Ibal had retir’d into Holland, I came acquainted with La Frette and Sauveboeuf; these were none of your Wits, but brave, gallant fellows. La Frette was as stout as Hercules, and my very good friend; and I think that I sufficiently shew’d my self to be his in the Sickness that carried him off. I saw him dying of a small Fever, like a Woman; and was enraged to see La Frette, that gallant La Frette, who fought Bouteville, go out, neither better nor worse, than a farthing Candle. Sauveboeuf and I, were concern’d to preserve the honour of our Friend; which made us resolve to pistol him, that he might die like a Man of Honour. I clapp’d a pistol to his head, when a son of a whore of a Jesuit push’d my arm aside, and hinder’d my design : this put me in so great a passion against him, that I presently turn’d Jansenist."

"Take notice, my Lord," said Father Canaye, "take notice how Satan is always in wait for us : circuit quærens quem devoret. You are somewhat piqu’d against our Order, and he takes that occasion to surprize, and devour you; nay, worse than devour you, to make you turn Jansenist. Vigilate, vigilate; a man cannot be too much upon his guard against the common enemy of mankind."

"The Father’s in the right," said the Mareschal. "I have been told that the Devil never sleeps. We ought to do the like, and be always upon our guard; for, sharp is the word. But let us leave the Devil, and talk of my likings. I have loved War above all things; Madam de Montbazon next to war; and such as you see me, Philosophy after Madam de Montbazon."

"You have reason to love War," replied the Father, "for War loves you too; it has crown’d you with Honours. Why, I’d have you to know, that I am also a Warrior. The King has given me the direction of the Hospital of his Army in Flanders : is not this enough to intitle a man a Warrior? Who would have thought that Father Canaye should turn Soldier? yet I am one, my Lord, and do God no less service in the Camp, than I did in the College of Clermont. You may therefore love War innocently; to go to the War, is to serve one’s Prince; and to serve one’s Prince is to serve God. But as for what concerns Madam de Montbazon, if you have lusted after her, if you have look’d upon her with a carnal eye, you must permit me to tell you that your Desires were criminal. You did not lust after her, my Lord, but only love her with an innocent friendship."

"How, Father!" said the Mareschal, "would you have me love like a Coxcomb? The Mareschal d’Hocquincourt has not learn’d in Ladies Bedchambers, to do nothing more than to sigh. I long’d, Father, I long’d : you understand my meaning."

"I long’d! I long’d! In truth, my Lord, you rally with a good grace. Our Fathers of St. Louis, would be ready to cross themselves at these I long’d : but when a man has been a great while in the Army, he learns to hear every thing. Well, well, you speak this, my Lord, to make your self merry."

"There is no Merriment in the case, Father : Do you know to what a pitch I lov’d her?"

"Usque ad aras, my Lord."

"No aras, Father. Look ye here," said the Mareschal, taking a Knife, and grasping the Haft fast in his hand, "Look ye here, if she had commanded me to kill you, I would have sheath’d this Blade in your heart." Father Canaye, surpriz’d at this discourse, but more frighted at this sudden transport, had immediate recourse to his mental Devotion, and secretly pray’d to his Maker, that he would deliver him from the danger wherein he found himself. But not trusting altogether to Prayer, he insensibly got out of the Mareschal’s reach, by an unperceivable motion of his Buttocks. The Mareschal kept still within Arms-length of him, by the same motion, with the Knife lifted up, so that one would have sworn, that he was going to put the Lady’s order in execution.

My ill nature made me take pleasure, for a while, in the fright of our reverend spark; but fearing, at length, that the Mareschal, in his passion, might render that scene melancholy, which was before pleasant; I put him in mind that Madam de Montbazon3 was dead; and told him, That it was Father Canaye’s good fortune, that he had nothing to fear from a person that was no more.

"God does every thing for the best," replied the Mareschal : "the fairest Woman in the World4 began to be troublesome to me, when she kick’d up her heels and died. She had always at her tail one Abbot de Rancé5 who discours’d with her about GRACE before company, and entertain’d her with something else in private. This made me forsake the Jansenists. Before that I never miss’d a Sermon of Father Desmares, and never swore but by the Gentlemen of Port-Royal; but I have consess’d my self to the Jesuits ever since : and if my Son has ever any Children, I am resolv’d they shall go to the College of Clermont, or else I’ll disinherit ’em."

"Oh, how wonderful are the ways of God!" cried out Father Canaye : "How profound is the mystery of his Justice! A fopling of a Jansenist pretends love to a Lady whom my Lord wished well to : the merciful God makes use of Jealousy to put the Conscience of my Lord into our hands; mirabilia judicia tua, Domine, wonderful are thy Judgments, O Lord!"

After the good Father had ended his pious Reflections, I thought I might be allowed to have a share in the Conversation; so I ask’d the Mareschal, if the Love of Philosophy did not succeed the Passion he had for Madam de Montbazon? "A plague on’t, I have lov’d Philosophy but too well," said the Mareschal, "I have loved it but too well; but I have left it at last, and will trouble my head no more with it. A Devil of a Philosopher had so puzzled my Brain about the first Parents, the Apple, the Serpent, terrestrial Paradise, and the Cherubims, that I had like to have believ’d nothing at all. The Devil take me, if I believ’d a syllable then; but ever since I could endure to be crucified for my Religion. Not that I see more reason in it now; but, on the contrary, less than ever : but, for all that, I could suffer my self to be crucified, without knowing why, or wherefore."

"So much the better, my Lord," reply’d the Father, twanging it very devoutly thro’ the Nose, "so much the better; these are no human motions; they proceed from God. No Reason! that’s the true Religion this : no Reason! What an extraordinary grace, my Lord, has Heaven bestow’d upon you! Estote sicut infantes, be as infants. Infants preserve their innocency; and why? because they have no Reason. Beati pauperes spiritu, blessed are the poor in spirit; they sin not : the reason is, because they have no Reason. No Reason : without knowing why, or wherefore. Oh excellent words! they ought to be written in letters of gold : Not that I see more reason in it now; but, on the contrary, less than ever! in truth, this is divine for them, that have any taste of heavenly things : no Reason! what an extraordinary grace, my Lord, has God bestow’d upon you!"

The Father had carried farther his holy hatred against Reason, if some Letters had not come from Court to the Mareschal, which interrupted so pious a Conversation. The Mareschal read them softly to himself; and afterwards he was pleas’d to tell the Company the contents. "If I affected to be thought a Politician, as others do, I should retire into my Closet, to read Dispatches from the Court : but I always act and speak with an open heart. The Cardinal sends me word, that Stenay’s taken6; that the Court will be here within eight days; and that the command of the Army that made the Siege, is given me, in order to go and relieve Arras, with Turenne and La Ferté. I remember well that Turenne suffer’d me to be beaten7 by the Prince of Condé, when the Court was at Gien; perhaps I may find an opportunity to be even with him. If Arras were reliev’d, and Turenne beaten, I should be content8; I’ll do what I can : I say no more."

He would have related to us all the particulars of the Battle, and what occasion he thought he had to complain of Monsieur de Turenne : but we were inform’d, that the Convoy was got already a good way out of town, which made us take our leaves sooner than we intended to do.

Father Canaye having no Horse of his own, desir’d the Mareschal to lend him one to carry him to the Camp. " And what sort of a Horse will you have, Father?" says the Mareschal.

"I will make you the same answer, my Lord, as good Father Suarez made to the Duke of Medina Sidonia upon the like occasion; qualem me decet esse, mansuetum; such an one as I ought to be, gentle and tractable."

"Qualem me decet esse, mansuetum! I understand a little Latin," said the Mareschal, "mansuetum is a fitter word for Sheep than Horses. Let the Father have my Horse; I love the whole Order, and am his Friend, therefore let them give him my best Horse."

I went to dispatch some small business of my own, but stay’d not long before I rejoin’d the Convoy. We pass’d without danger, but not without some fatigue for poor Father Canaye. I met him upon the march, mounted on one of the best Stone-Horses of Monsieur d’Hocquincourt. ’Twas a mettlesom fiery Devil, restless, and always in motion; that champ’d his bit eternally; still went on one side, neigh’d every minute; and what most offended the modesty of the Father, he very indecently mistook all the Horses that came near him for Mares. "What do I see, Father?" said I coming up to him; "what a Horse have they given you? where is good Father Suarez’s Nag, that you ask’d so earnestly for?"

"Ah, Sir, says he, I am e’en spent, I am bruis’d to pieces." ——— He was going on with his complaints, when a Hare started. An hundred Horsemen immediately hurried away in confusion after the Course, and we heard presently more discharges of Pistols, than at a skirmish. The Father’s Horse being us’d to fire, under the Mareschal, ran away with his rider, and made him penetrate instantly beyond their confus’d ranks. ’Twas a very pleasant sight to see a Jesuit at the head of all this company, in spite of himself. By good fortune Puss was kill’d; and I found the Father in the midst of thirty horsemen, who all gave him the honour of a chase, which might deserve the name of a Rencounter. The Father receiv’d their commendations with a seeming modesty; but in his mind he despis’d very much the mansuetum of good Father Suarez, and hugg’d himself with the wonders he thought he had done on the Mareschal’s Barbary horse. However, ’twas not long before he remembred that fine saying of Solomon, Vanitas vanitatum, & omnia vanitas. As he grew cool, he felt a smart, which the heat had render’d insensible; and false glory yielding to real pain, he wish’d for the ease and quiet life of the College he had quitted. But all these reflections signified nothing; he must go to the Camp, and he was so tir’d of his horse, that I saw him once ready to abandon his Bucephalus, and walk a-foot at the head of the infantry.

I comforted him for his past fatigue, and freed him from any such inconveniency for the future, by giving him the easiest Nag he could have wish’d. He return’d me a thousand thanks, and was so sensible of my civility, that laying aside all cautious regards to his profession, he convers’d with me more like an honest sincere fellow-traveller, than a Jesuit9. I ask’d him what his opinion was of Monsieur d’Hocquincourt? "He’s a worthy Gentleman," said he : "he’s a good soul. He has quitted the Jansenists; and our Order is oblig’d to him : but for my part, I shall never sit at table near him, nor borrow a horse of him."

Being much pleas’d with this first freedom, I had a mind to try him farther. "Whence come," continu’d I, "the great animosities between the Jansenists and your Fathers? do they proceed from your differing in opinion about the Doctrine of GRACE?"

"What nonsense," said he, "what nonsense it is, to think that we hate one another for not having the same opinion about GRACE! ’tis neither that, nor the five Propositions, that have set us at variance; the jealousy of governing Consciences is the cause of all the mischief. The Jansenists found us in possession of the government, and had a mind to dispossess us. Now, to compass their ends, they make use of methods quite contrary to ours. We employ gentleness and indulgence, and they affect austerity and rigour. We comfort souls by the examples of God’s mercy; and they frighten them by those of his justice. They would subdue by the means of Fear, those whom we endeavour to attract by the blandishment of Hope. Not but that both of us have a mind to save men; but each has also a design to advance his credit, by saving them; and to speak freely to you, the interest of the Director is generally preferred before the salvation of him who is under his care. I talk to you after quite another manner than I did to the Mareschal. I was a downright Jesuit with him, but with you I use the freedom of a Soldier." I commended very much the new character which his last profession had made him take up; and he seem’d to be well pleased with this commendation. I had continu’d it longer, but night approaching, we were oblig’d to part : the Father being as much content with my usage of him, as I was satisfied with the confidence he repos’d in me.


1. The Mareschal d’Hocquincourt was then (1654) at Peronne, of which place he was Governor.

2. The Count de Soissons.

3. The Dutchess of Montbazon, Daughter to Count de Vertus, was then still alive; for she died in the year 1657. M. de St. Evremond was not ignorant of it, but he thought that this Anachronism might be easily forgiven him, considering it was difficult otherwise to recover Father Canaye from the fright he was in.

4. Thus the Mareschal d’Hocquincourt called Madam de Montbazon.

5. Armand John Baptist de Rancé, so famous afterwards under the name of the Abbot de la Trappe, was one of the Dutchess of Montbazon’s Lovers : and let his Panegyrists say what they please, ’tis certain that the sudden and unexpected death of that Lady, was one of the principal Motives of his Conversion and Retirement. Madam de Montbazon died of the Small Pox in a country Seat, where the Abbot being come, from Paris, upon the first news of her illness, and finding no body in the entry, he went up to the Dutchess’s Apartment thro’ the Back-stairs; and the first Object that presented it self to his sight, was Madam de Montbazon’s Corps, diffigur’d in the most horrid and ghastly manner, and ready to be laid in the Coffin. This made so lively an impression upon him, that he renounced the World, and settled in his Abbey of La Trappe a very austere Reform. He died on the 26th of October, 1700.

6. Stenay was taken the sixth of August 1654.

7. At Bleneau the seventh of April.

8. These three Mareschals having forced the Lines in three places, beat the Spaniards, entred Arras, and obliged the Prince of Condé to retire.

9. M. de St. Evremond had studied under Father Canaye, at the College of Clermont, as I have observed in his Life.