Letter from St. Évremond to the Dutchess Mazarin ("If you find any Extravagancies…")
A LETTER TO THE DUTCHESS OF MAZARIN.
If you find any Extravagancies in the little Book I send you, you are oblig’d to excuse them, since you have robb’d me of my Judgment, which might have hinder’d me from committing them to writing. I have been honour’d in my time, with the company of very amiable Persons, to whom I am beholden for leaving me so much good sense as I had occasion for, to esteem their merit, without disturbing my repose : but I have just grounds to complain of you, for plundering me of all my Reason, which the others had left me.
How unhappy is my condition! I have lost everything on the side of Reason, and I see nothing for me to pretend to on the side of Passion. Shall I ask you to love a man of my age? I have not been so good a Christian as to expect miracles in my favour. If the merit of my Passion could obtain of you a concern for my being old, and a desire that I were young again, I should be content. The favour of a Wish is but a small matter; pray refuse me not that. It is natural to wish that every one that loves us were amiable.
There never was so disinterested a Passion in the world, as mine. I love those you love, nor do I love less those who love you; I consider your Lovers as your Subjects, instead of hating them as my Rivals : and that which is yours is dearer to me, than that which is against me is hateful to me. As for what relates to the Persons who are dear to you, I take no less a concern in them than you; my soul carries its movements and affections to the place where yours are; I relent when you grow tender; when you languish ’tis the same case with me. The passionate Songs at the Opera make no impression upon me of themselves; they have no manner of influence over me, but by that which they have over you. I am touch’d to see you touch’d; and those melancholy Sighs, which, now and then, steal unawares from you, put my heart to no less expence than they do yours.
I have little or no share in causing any of your pains, but I suffer from them as much as you do. Sometimes you produce in us a Passion different from that which you design’d to excite. If you repeat any Verses out of the Andromache, you inspire Love with the sentiments of a Mother who would only stir up Pity. You endeavour to make us sensible of her Misfortunes, and you soon see us sensible of your own Charms. Sad and compassionate expressions revive secretly in our hearts the Passion which they have for you; and the grief which you would raise in us for an unfortunate Lady, becomes a natural sense of our own torments.
One should not believe this without making experience of it, at his own cost. Those matters that seem most opposite to tenderness, assume an affecting air in your mouth : your Reasonings, your Disputes, your Altercations, nay, your very Anger have their charms; so difficult it is to find any thing in you, which does not contribute to the Passion you inspire. Nothing comes from you which is not amiable; nothing is form’d in you which does not turn to love.
A serious Reflection puts me in mind that you will laugh at me for this Discourse; but you cannot make merry with my weakness, without being pleas’d with your Beauty; and I am satisfied with my shame, if it gives you any satisfaction. A man may sacrifice his Repose, his Liberty, and his Fortune : but Glory, says Montaigne, is never sacrificed. I will make bold to contradict Montaigne in this particular; and don’t refuse to become ridiculous for the love of you.
But upon second thoughts, Madam, we cannot make you a sacrifice of this nature : since a man can never be ridiculous in loving you. A Minister of State renounces his Politicks for you; and a Philosopher his Morals, without any prejudice to their reputation. The power of an exquisite Beauty justifies all the Passion which it is capable of producing; and after having consulted my Judgment as nicely as my Heart, I will tell you, without fearing to be ridicul’d for it, that I love you.