HISTORICAL MEMOIRS 1691-1709 by Louis de. Saint-Simon


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It is said that without Saint-Simon's Memoirs we would never have had Proust, just as without Hegel we would never have had Marx. Proust of course owes the Duke a great debt, but Saint-Simon's real descendants are to be found in the practitioners of the nineteenth-century French novel. The fastidious psychology of Stendhal, the gargantuan social details of Balzac, even the hurly-burly intrigues of Hugo's fiction and dramas--all these touted aspects of French realism and romantic zest had already appeared in their purest and most concentrated form in the pages of Saint-Simon. The latter was an historian and dealt in facts: the events he chronicled were real. as were the personages involved. But Saint-Simon was also an artist. His morals, his sense of hierarchical order, and his political beliefs were those of his time and station in life. The animating spirit behind his work. nevertheless, was that of' the creative genius. Thus the narrative splendor of tire Memoirs has its hero (Louis XIV. a grand, varied, and inveterate presence), supporting players (the nobles, clergy, generals, the people of Paris). a brilliant canvas (court life at Versailles and Marly, the battles of Blenheim and Turin and Ramillies), and the shadow of change amid seemingly eternal luxury and protocol. Saint-Simon was a genuine aristocrat, his gods were duty and candor and courage: he judged the world around him and the king he served with the highest of standards. In a sense he was a valedictorian. consciously so, for he knew that bankruptcy, corruption, and revolution would one day innundate the royal idyll. The new translation of his masterpiece is admirably done.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1968
Publisher: McGraw-Hill