Bourdeilles, Peter De

, better known by the name of Brantôme, of which he was abbot, added to that title those of lord and baron of Richemont, chevalier, gentleman of the chamber to the kings Charles IX. and Henry III. and chamberlain to the duke of Alençon. He had the design of being created a knight of Maltha in a voyage he made to that isle during the time of the siege in 1565. He returned to France, where he was fed with vain expectations; but he received no other reward (as he tells us himself) than being welcomed by the kings his masters, great lords, princes, sovereigns, queens, princesses, &c. He died July 5, 1614, at the age of 87. His memoirs were printed in ten volumes, 12mo, viz. four of the French commanders; two of foreign commanders two of women of gallantry one of illustrious ladies; and one of duels. There is another edition of the Hague, 1741, 15 vols. 12mo, on account of the supplement, which makes five, and also a Paris edition 1787, 8 vols. 8vo. These memoirs may be of some use, if read cautiously, by those who would know the private history of Charles IX. of Henry III. and of Henry IV. Here the man is more represented than the prince. The pleasure of seeing these kings in their peculiarities in private life, added to the simplicity of Brantome’s style, renders the reading of his memoirs extremely agreeable. But some of his anecdotes are grossly indecent, and many of them fictions.

Brantome,” (says M. Anquetil) “is in the hands of | every body. All the world pretends to have read him; but he ought particularly to be put into the hands of princes, that they may learn how impossible it is for them to hide themselves they they have an importance in the eyes of their courtiers, which draws attention to all their actions j and that, sooner or later, the most secret of them are revealed to posterity. The reflections that would occur, on seeing that Brantome has got together all the little transactions, all the idle words that have escaped them, all the actions pretended to be indifferent, which were thought to be neglected and lost, and which nevertheless mark the character, would render them more circumspect. In reading Brantome a problem forces itself on the mind, which it is difficult to solve. It is very common to see that author joining together the most discordant ideas in regard to morals. Sometimes he will represent a woman as addicted to the most infamous refinements of libertinism, and then will conclude by saying that she was prudent, and a good Christian. So likewise of a priest, of a monk, or any other ecclesiastic, he will relate anecdotes more than wanton; and will tell us very gravely at the end, that this man lived regularly according to his station. Almost all his memoirs are full of similar contradictions in a sort of epigram. On which 1 have this question to propose: Was Brantome a libertine; who, in order to sport more securely with religion and morals, affects in the expression a respect to which the very matter of the recital gives the lie? or, Was he one of those persons who generally go under the name of amiable fops; who, without principles as without design, confound virtue and vice, making no real difference between one character and another? Whatever judgment we may form of him, we must always blame him for omitting to observe a proper reverence for decorum in his writings, and for frequently putting modesty to the blush. We perceive in Brantome the character of those young men, who, making a part of the court by their birth, pass their lives in it without pretensions and without desires. They amuse themselves with every thing: if an action has a ridiculous side, they seize it; if it has not, they give it one. Brantome only skims along the surface of a subject; he knows nothing of diving into an action, and unfolding the motives that gave it birth. He gives a good picture of what he has seen, relates in simple terms what he has heard; but it is nothing uncommon to see him quit his main object, return to it, quit it a | and conclude by thinking no more of it. With all this irregularity he pleases, because he amuses.1