Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/134

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

i. 387, 1808 i. 172, 1839 ii. 542; West Briton, 16 Aug. 1839 p. 3, 6 Sept. p. 2; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iii. 311 (sale of St. Aubyn's engravings).]

W. P. C.

SAINT-ÉVREMOND, CHARLES DE MARGUETEL DE SAINT DENIS, de (1613?–1703), soldier, poet, and essayist, and, according to the Duc d'Aumale, the ‘most refined epicurean of his age,’ is said to have been born on 1 April 1613 at Saint-Denis-le-Guast in Normandy. He belonged to a noble and fairly wealthy family, and, as a younger son, it was at first intended that he should enter the magistracy. At the age of nine he was sent to the Collège de Clermont in Paris, a school conducted by the jesuits. After remaining there four years he was removed to the university of Caen, and then, a year afterwards, to the Collège d'Harcourt in Paris, where he devoted himself to the study of law, and became a skilled fencer. He soon decided to abandon the law for a military career, and, when scarcely more than sixteen, obtained a commission in the army as an ensign. He served, during the thirty years' war, in Italy, on the Rhine, and in Flanders, obtaining his captaincy for his conduct at the siege of Landrecies in 1637. At Paris, during the winter suspension of hostilities, he came under the influence of Gassendi, the opponent of Descartes and teacher of Molière. Saint-Évremond acquired from Gassendi a sceptical habit of mind in religious matters, and a resolve to govern his life with an exclusive view to its enjoyment. Well read and witty, he was favourably noticed by the young Duc d'Enghien, ‘the Grand Condé,’ who, in order to enjoy his society, appointed him in 1642 to the lieutenancy of his guards. With the duke, Saint-Évremond fought at Rocroi (1643), Friedburg (1644), and Nordlingen (1645), where he was dangerously wounded in the knee. Next year (1646) he followed the duke into Flanders, again doing good service, and was commissioned by the latter to induce Mazarin to sanction the siege of Dunkirk, a mission in which he succeeded excellently. The winter of 1646–7 he again spent in Paris, mixing in the most brilliant society. Already, some three years before, he had written, or helped to write, a clever dramatic satire on the then still young French academy (La Comédie des Académistes), and now, 1647, he wrote three or four short essays on subjects suggested by the conversation of the salons, such as ‘That the man who would know everything does not know himself.’ These essays were circulated in manuscript among the wits. In 1647 Saint-Évremond followed Condé into Catalonia; but next year (1648), after accompanying him to Flanders, he offended his commander by a satire, and was cashiered.

During the troubles of the Fronde, the Duc de Longueville, a leader against the court in Normandy, vainly offered Saint-Évremond the command of the artillery; and Saint-Évremond wrote soon after a satirical account of the ‘Retreat of M. le Duc de Longueville in his Government of Normandy.’ The piece so pleased Mazarin that during his last illness he invited the author to read it to him several times. On 16 Sept. 1652, while the civil war was at its height, the king appointed Saint-Évremond to be a ‘maréchal de camp’ in his armies, and by warrant dated the following day gave him a pension of three thousand livres. In his new rank he served under the Duc de Candale in Guienne till the reduction of Bordeaux, and, with the help of Fouquet, supplemented his emoluments so satisfactorily as to bring home from the campaign fifty thousand francs, which, as he told Silvestre, proved ‘of great use to him during the remainder of his life.’ Soon afterwards he fell into temporary disgrace for some unexplained cause, and was confined to the Bastille for two or three months. Mazarin made him a kind of apology on his release. In the next year (1654) he was again serving in Flanders, and continued his active military service till the peace with Spain in 1659.

Meanwhile his fame as a man of society had spread. The time was one of easy morality, when, according to his own account, ‘delicate vice went by the name of pleasure.’ He himself was not, if we are to believe Des Maizeaux, greatly addicted to the society of women; but he was one of the first lovers of the famous Ninon de Lenclos, named by him ‘the modern Leontium,’ and remained in affectionate correspondence with her till the end of their long lives. He had a wide reputation as a gastronome. In the autumn of 1659 he accompanied Mazarin on his journey south to conclude the peace of the Pyrenees with Don Louis de Haro, the Spanish minister. Before starting, he promised the Marquis de Créqui to give him an account of what took place. The peace was very unpopular with the army, and Saint-Évremond's report to the marquis formed, in effect, a very able and bitter