Evremond, Charles De St.

, a writer, who distinguished himself by his talents and productions in polite literature, and who was many years resident in England,. was born at St. Denis le Guast, in Lower Normandy, April 1, 1613. He was the third son of Charles de St. Denis, castellan or baron of St. Denis le Guast; and took the name of St. Evremond from a manor which was part of the estate of his father, and of which he was sometimes styled lord. He was intended, by his father, for the profession | of the law; and, when he was nine years of age, he was sent to Paris to be bred a scholar. He was entered in the second form in the college of Ciermont; and continued there four years, during which he went through a course of grammar learning and rhetoric. He was next sent to the university of C;ien, in order to study philosophy but he continued there one year only, and then returned to Paris, where he pursued the same study a year longer in the college of Harcourt. He distinguished himself not only by his application to literature, but by other accomplishments; and he particularly excelled in fencing, so that “St. Evremond’s pass” was famous among those who were skilled in that art. When he had passed through a course of philosophy, be began to study the law: but whether his relations had then other views for him, or that his inclination led him to a military life, he quitted that study after he had prosecuted it somewhat more than a jear, and was made an ensign before he hud quite attained to the age of sixteen. After he had served two or three campaigns, he obtained a lieutenant’s commission; and, after the siege of Laiidvecy, in 1637, he had the command of a company of foot.

M. de St. Evremond distinguished himself in the army by his politeness and wit, as well as by his bravery; and his accomplishments procured him the esteem of the mareschals d’Etrées and Grammont, of viscount Turenne, of the count de Moissens, afterwards mareschal de Albret, of count Palluau, afterwards marescUal de Clerembaut, and of the marquis de Crequi, who also became a mareschal of France. He had a share in the confidence of these distinguished noblemen, and they always testified their friendship towards him. In 1640, M. de St. Evremond was at the siege of Arras; and, in the ensuing year, he obtained a post in the horse, which gave him fresh opportunities of signalizing himself. Soon after the duke of Enguien, afterwards prince of Condé, became so much pleased with his conversation, that he made him lieutenant of his guards, that he might have him constantly near him. He often read with him and sometimes communicated to him his most secret projects, and entrusted him with affairs of the greatest moment. After the campaign of Rocroy, in 1643, M. de St. Evremond wrote a kind of satire against the French academy, which was published in 1650, and | entitled, “The Comedy of the Academicians for reforming the French tongue .*


The title of this piece, in French, at first was, “La Cornedie des Academistes pour la Reformation de la Iangue Françoise.” St. Evremond afterwards altered and improved it; and the title prefixed to it, in the French edition of his works, is, “Les Academiciens, Comedie.” This piece has never been translated into English, Chapelain, the French poet, Godeau, bishop of Grasse and Vence, and other members of the French aeademy, are ridiculed in this comedy, which consists cnly of three acts. St. Evremond also wrote another comedy, which is printed in the French editions of his works, under the title of “Sir Politic Would-be, Cometlie, la maniere des Auglois.” In this piece he introduces an English knight at Venice, forming schemes for the improvement of the Venetian government. One of the knight’s plans of improvement was, the appointment of four doges, instead of one, for the government of that republic. As the doges of Venice, he remarked, were generally chosen to that office when they were much advanced in age, they were often indisposed, and unfit for public businessl being sometimes confined to their chambers, and sometimes to their beds. But, if four doges were elected, then, if even two of them were sick, two of them would probably be well; and, if it should even happen that three of them should be ill at the same time, there would still be one of them capable of doing the business of the republic. In this piece the different modes of travelling of the French and the Germans are also ridiculed. St. Evremond likewise wrote another comedy, entitled, “Les Operas.” It does not appear that either of these pieces were ever translated into English.

In 1644 he made the campaign of Fribourg; and the following year he received a dangerous wound at the battle of Notlingen. Being ordered to head a squadron, and to post himself below an eminence which was possessed by the enemy, he was there exposed, for three hours together, to all the fire of their small shot, and a battery of four field-pieces; so that he lost there most of his men, and was himself wounded in the left knee. His wound was so dangerous, that for six weeks he was supposed to be past recovery; but, by the skill of his surgeons, and the excellency of his constitution, his cure was at length effected. Thirty years after, however, his wound opened afresh in, London; but, being properly treated, he felt no inconvenience from it, excepting that his left leg was somewhat weaker than the other. After the taking of Fumes, in 1646, the duke of Enguien appointed M. de St. Evremond to carry the news of it to court; and having, at the same time, opened to him his design of besieging Dunkirk, charged him to propose it to cardinal Mazarin, and to settle with him every thing which was necessary for the execution of that undertaking. M. de St. Evremond managed this business with so much dexterity, that he prevailed on the prime minister to agree to every thing which was required by the duke of Enguien. But, in 1648, he lost the | post which he had near that nobleman, now, by the death of his father, become prince of Conde. This prince took great delight in discovering what was ridiculous in the characters of his acquaintance; and often indulged himself in laughing at their foibles in private, in company with the count de Moissens and M. de St. Evremond. But the prince of Conde, who took great pleasure in ridiculing others, was not fond of being ridiculed himself. He was informed, that St. Evremond and the count had found out, that there was somewhat ridiculous even in him; that his extreme solicitude to discover the foibles of others was in itself a species of the ridiculous; and that they sometimes amused themselves with laughing at his highness. This excited in him so much resentment, that he took from M. de St. Evremond the lieutenancy of his guards, and would have no farther correspondence with the count de Moissens. It is, however, supposed, that a reconciliation would have been effected, if they had not been separated by the civil war, which about this time took place in France. When the prince of Conde" returned into France, after the Pyre nean treaty, M. de St. Evremond went to wait upon him, and was very favourably received. The prince offered him his protection; and afterwards, on several occasions, gave him assurances of his affection and esteem.

In 1649 M. de St. Evremond went into Normandy, to visit his relations. About this time the parliament of Paris had declared against cardinal Mazarin; and the duke of Beaufort, the prince of Conti, and the duke of Longueville, following their example, the latter retired to his government of Normandy, where he assembled the nobility, and very earnestly endeavoured to prevail on St. Evremond to engage in his party. With this view he was offered the command of the artillery; but this office he declined; and has given a facetious account of his refusal in a satirical piece written by him about this time, entitled, “The duke of Longueville’s Retreat to his Government of Normandy.” He says, “They had a mind to bestow the command of the ordnance on St. Evremond; and, to speak the truth, considering his affection for St Germain’s (where the king then was), he would have been glad to have served the court, by accepting a considerable employment, of the business of which he knew nothing. But, having promised count de Harcourt to take no employment, he kept his word, not only from a principle of honour, but that he | might not be like the Normans, most of whom had broken their promise. From these considerations, he was induced generously to refuse the money that was offered to him, but which would never have been paid him.

When the civil war broke out, the French king, being acquainted with St. Evremond’s merit and bravery, and knowing that he had constantly refused to join with those who were in opposition to the court, made him a mareschal de. camp, or major-general. His commission was dated Sept. 6, 1652; and the next day he received a warrant for a pension of three thousand livres a year. He served afterwards in the war of Guienne, under the duke of Candale; but, after the reduction of Guienne, he was committed to the Bastile, where he ivas confined as a prisoner two or three months. Some jests that had been thrown out relative to cardinal Mazarin, in a company wherein St. Evremond was present, but in which he had no greater share than the rest, were the pretence for his confinement. But the true reason of it was supposed to be, a suspicion that he had given some advice to the duke of Candale, which was inconsistent with the cardinal’s views. However, when St. Evremond obtained his liberty, he went to return thanks to the cardinal for his enlai?gement. Mazarin told him on this occasion, that “he was persuaded of his innocence, but that a man in his station was obliged to hearken to so many reports, that it was very difficult for him to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and not sbmetimes to do injustice to an honest man.

In 1654, M. de St. Evremond served in Flanders; and about three years after fought a duel with the marquis de Fore. He continued in the service in Flanders till the suspension of arms, which was agreed upon between France and Spain in 1659. The following year, he came over into England with count de Soissons, who was sent on an embassy to congratulate Charles II. on the restoration; and, when cardinal Mazarin set out from Paris with a great retinue, in order to negociate a treaty with the first minister of the king of Spain, St. Evremond was one of those who accompanied him. He afterwards sent a letter concerning the conferences to the marquis de Crequi, in which he informed him, that the cardinal had sacrificed the honour and interests of France to his own private views. In one part of this letter he said, “It is the cardinal’s maxim, that a minister does not so much belong to the state as the | state to the minister; and, for this reason, if God grant bim but a few years, he will get all the estates in the kingdom into his own hands.” This letter of St. Evremond, concerning the Pyreneau treaty, became the occasion of his banishment from France. After the death of the cardinal, a copy of the letter fell into the hands of some of the courtiers who had been connected with him. They represented to his majesty the danger of allowing private men to judge of state affairs, and to censure the conduct of ministers. Their representations made such an impression on the mind of Lewis, that he immediately ordered M. de St. Evremond to be committed to the Bastile. But St. Evremoud had no inclination to pay a second visit to that fortress; and, therefore, having received private information of the design, found means to make his escape out of France, and arrived in Holland about the end of the year 1661.

He did not continue long in Holland, but went over to England in 1662, and was well received at the British court. He particularly numbered among his friends the dukes of Buckingham and Ormond, the earls of St. Alban‘a and Arlington, lord D’Aubigny and lord Crofts. He also cultivated the acquaintance of those persons in England who were the most eminent for literature; and often conversed with Hobbes, sir Kenehn Digby, Cowley, and Waller. In England he wrote many literary pieces, which were afterwards printed. In 1665 he was seized with a disorder, which threw him into a kind of melancholy, and greatly weakened him. His physicians told him, that nothing but a change of air could cure him; and that, if he could not go to Montpelier, be would at least do well to cross the sea, ^nd make some stay in Holland. He complied with this, advice; and liked his situation in Holland so well, that he thought of spending the remainder of his life in that country. In a letter written about this time to the marquis de Crequi, he says, “After having lived in the constraint of courts, I console myself with the hope of ending my days, in the freedom of a republic, where, if nothing is to be hoped for, there is at least nothing to be feared. It would be disgraceful to a young man not to enter the world with a design of making his fortune: but, when we are upon the decline, nature calls us back to ourselves; and, the sentiments of ambition yielding to the love of our repose, we find it agreeable to live in a country, where the laws guard | us against any subjection to the will of others; and where, to be secure of all, we need only be secure of ourselves. To this blessing we may add, that the magistrates have great authority in their offices for the interests of the public, but are little distinguished in their persons by any particular privileges or advantages. You see here none of those odious distinctions, which are so offensive to men of real good breeding no useless dignities, or inconvenient degrees of rank none of that cumbrous greatness, which restrains liberty, without advancing one’s fortune. Here the magistrates procure our repose, without expecting any acknowledgment, or even any expressions of respect for the services that they render to us. They are rigorous in the execution of the orders of the state firm and unaccommodating in the management of the interest of their country with foreign nations mild and tractable with their fellow-citizens and easy with all sorts of private persons. The foundation of equality remains, notwithstanding the exercise of authority; and, therefore, credit never makes a man insolent, nor do the governors ever bear hard on those that are governed.

During his stay in Holland, St. Evremond became acquainted with most of the foreign ministers and persons of distinction there and also visited several eminent literary men, who happened then to be at the Hague particularly Heinsius, Vossius, and Spinoza. Of the latter he gave the following account to Mr. Des Maizeaux: lt He was,“said he,” of a middle stature, and pleasing countenance. His learning, modesty, and disinterestedness, made him esteemed by all the ingenious persons then at the Hague. It did not appear, from his ordinary conversation, that he had those sentiments which were afterwards found in his posthumous works." About 1667, some applications were made to the French king, by means of M. de St. Evremond’s friends, particularly of the marquis de Lionne, to induce that monarch to permit him to return to his own country but these applications were not successful. In 1668, the prince of Tuscany arrived in Holland and, as he designed to make some stay at the Hague, he hired a house there: but it happened, that, in the house which was taken for him, M. de St. Evremond had an apartment, as had also some other persons of distinction. They were, therefore, obliged to seek for other lodgings; but, when St. Evremond was preparing to remove like the rest, the | prince not only desired him to stay, but likewise to use his table whilst he continued at the Hague. He also ever afterwards testified his esteem for him, and sent him every year a present of some of the best Italian wines.

St. Evremond now thought of passing the remainder of his days in Holland but, in 1670, sir William Temple delivered to him letters from the earl of Arlington, by which he was informed, that king Charles -II. desired his return to England. This induced him to change his intentions; and, on his arrival in England, the king conferred on him a pension o:‘ three hundred pounds a-year. In 1675, the duchess of Mazarin arrived in England; and we are told, that “her house was the usual rendezvous of the politest persons in England; and in these assemblies the people of fashion found an agreeable amusement, and the learned an excellent pattern of politeness.” It is added, that, in her house, “all manner of subjects were discoursed upon, as philosophy, religion, history, pieces of wit and gallantry, plays, and authors ancient and modern.” St. Evremond spent much of his time at the house of the duchess of Mazarin, and appears to have had a great friendship for her. He was also on very friendly terms with the celebrated Ninon de PEnclos, with whom he often corresponded. He sometimes passed the summer season with the court at Windsor, where he conversed much with Isaac Vossius, who had been made one of the prebendaries of Windsor by king Charles II. By the death of that prince, St. Evremond lost his pension; but, in 1686, the earl of Sunderland proposed to king James II. to create for him an office of secretary of the cabinet, whose province should be to write the king’s private letters to foreign princes. The king agreed to the proposal, but St. Evremond declined accepting the office. He made his acknowledgments to lord Sunderland, and to the king; and said, “he should account himself very happy to be able to serve his majesty; but that a man of his age ought to think of nothing, but how to husband the little time he had to live, and to spend it in ease and tranquillity.” After the Revolution, he was so well treated in England by king William, that he declined returning again to his own country, though the French king now gave him permission, and even promised him a favourable reception. Yet king William’s characteristic address to him, when first introduced at court, could not be very acceptable to a man who valued | himself on his literary reputation “I think you was a major-general in the French service” About 1693, the abbot de Chaulieu sent a poem to the duchess of Mazarin, accompanied with a letter in verse, which contained a high compliment to St. Evremond, whom he compared to Ovid. St. Evremond made some remarks on the abbot’s poetical epistle, in which he objected to the comparison between himself and the Roman poet. “Ovid,” said he, “was the most witty and the most unfortunate man of his time. I am not like him, either as to wit or misfortunes. He was exiled among barbarians, where he made fine verses; but so doleful and melancholy, that they excite as much contempt for his weakness as compassion for his disgrace. Where I am, I daily see the duchess of Mazarin. I lire among sociable people, who have a great deal of merit and a great deal of wit. I make very indifferent verses; but so gay, that they make my humour to be envied, while they make my poetry to be laughed at. I have too little money but I love to be in a country where there is enough besides, the nse of it ends with our lives and the consideration of a greater evil is a sort of remedy against a lesser. Thus you see I have several advantages over Ovid. It is true, that he was more fortunate at Rome with Julia than I have been at London with Hortensia: but the favours of Julia were the occasion of his misfortune; and the rigours of Hortensia do not make a man of my age uneasy.

St. Evremond was a kind of epicurean philosopher; but though his speculative morality was too lax, yet in his general conduct he appears to have acted like a man of probity. He preserved his health and his chearfulness to a very great age. In one of his letters to Ninon de TEnclos he says, “At eighty-eight years of age, I eat oysters every morning. I dine heartily, and sup tolerably. Heroes are celebrated for less merit than mine.” He was at length afflicted with a strangury, which was attended with great pain, and by which he was much weakened. Bayle tells us, in one of his letters, that it was publicly known, that St. Evremond used no assistance of minister or priest to prepare him for death; and that it was said, that the envoy from the court of Florence sent to him an ecclesiastic, who, asking him whether he would be reconciled, received for answer, “With all my heart: I would fain be reconciled to my stomach, which no longer performs in | usual functions.” Bayle also says, “I have seen verses, which he wrote fifteen days before his death; and his only regret was, that he was reduced to boiled meats, and could no longer digest partridges and pheasants.” He died on the 9th of Sept. 1703, aged ninety years, five months, and twenty days. Des Maizeaux says, “He preserved, to the very last, a lively imagination, a solid judgment, and a happy memory. The great and acute pains, which he felt during his sickness, never disturbed his tranquillity. He bore them with a courage and constancy that may be envied by philosophers of the first rate.” The same writer gives the following description of his person: “M. de St. Evremond had blue, lively, and sparkling eyes, a large forehead, thick eye-brows, a handsome mouth, and a sneering physiognomy. Twenty years before his death, a wen grew between his eye-brows, which in time increased to a considerable bigness. He once designed to have it cut oft; but, as it was no ways troublesome to him, and he little regarded that kind of deformity, Dr. Le Fevre advised him to let it alone, lest such an operation should be attended with dangerous symptoms in a man of his age. He would often make merry with himself on account of his wen, his great leather cap, and grey hair, which he chose to wear rather than a periwig .*


Pitt says of him, " Old Evremond, renown’d for wit and dirt,

Would change his living oftener than his shirt;

Roar with the rakes of state a month; and come

To starve another in his hole at home."

Des Maizeaux afterwards adds, “His behaviour was civil and engaging, his conversation lively and pleasant, his repartees quick and happy. We find very few that know how to read well. M. de St. Evre-p mond told me one day, that he had not known three in his whole life that could read justly. He had this art in perfection; and, what is altogether as uncommon, he had a very happy way of telling a story.” “His humour was ever gay and merry; which was so far from declining towards the latter end of his life, that it seemed rather to gather fresh strength.” “He was extremely fond of the company of young people, and delighted to hear the stories of their adventures.” “Although he did not pretend to over-rigid morals, yet he had all the qualities of a man of honour. He was just, generous, and grateful; and full of goodness and humanity.

St. Evremond also, drew his own character, in a letter to the count de Grammont. It is as follows: “He was a | philosopher equally removed from superstition and from impiety a voluptuary, who had no less aversion from debauchery than inclination for pleasure a man who had never felt the pressure of indigence, and who had never been in possession of affluence. He lived in a condition despised by those who have every thing, envied by those who have nothing, and relished by those who make their reason the foundation of their happiness. When he was young, he hated profusion, being persuaded that some degree of wealth was necessary for the conveniences of a long life. When he was old, he could hardly endure ceconomy; being of opinion, that want is little to be dreaded when a man has but little time left to be miserable. He was well pleased with nature, and did not complain of fortune. He hated vice, was indulgent to frailties, and lamented misfortunes. He sought not after the failings of men with a design to expose them; he only found what was ridiculous in them for his own amusement. He had a secret pleasure in discovering this himself; and would, indeed, have had a still greater in discovering this to others^ had he not been checked by discretion. Life, in his opinion, was too short to read all sorts of books, and to burden one’s memory with a multitude of things at the expence of one’s judgment. He did not apply himself to the most learned writings, in order to acquire knowledge; but to the most rational, to fortify his reason. He sometimes chose the most delicate, to give delicacy to his own taste; and sometimes the most agreeable, to give the same turn to his own genius. It remains that he should be described such as he was in friendship and in religion. In friendship he was more constant than a philosopher, and more sincere than a young man of good nature without experience. With regard to religion, his piety consisted more in justice and charity than in penance or mortification. He placed his confidence in God, trusting in his goodness, and hoping, that in the bosom of his providence, he should find his repose and his felicity.*


His character also, as drawn by Dr. Knightley Chetwood, is in his works, to which Dryden added a supplement, which may be seen in Malone’s edition of his Prose Works, vol. IV. In Spence’s Anecdotes we have a short character of him by PopeM. St. Evremond would talk for ever. He was a great epicure, and as great a sloven. He lived, you know, to a great old age, and in the latter part of his life used to be always feeding his ducks, or the fowls that he kept in his chamber. Ue had a great variety of these and other animals all over the house, and used always to say, that when we grow old, and our own spirits decay, it re-animates one to have a number of living creatures about one, and to be much wiih them.

| He was interred in Westminster- abbey, in the nave of the church near the cloister, where a monument was erected to his memory by his friends, with an inscription, in which he is highly praised. It is said to have been written by Dr. Garth. Dr. Atterbury, who looked on St. Evreniond as an infidel, appears to have had objections to his being buried in the abbey, for which he is reflected upon, with petulant malignity, by one of the editors of the last edition of the Biographia Brttannica.

By his wiil, St. Evremond, who died worth about 800l. left 20l. to the poor French refugees; and the same sura to “the poor Roman catholics, or of any other religion.” His manuscripts he left to Dr. Sylvestre. The earl of Galway was his executor.

The works of St. Evremond consist of a variety of essays and letters, containing many ingenious and acute remarks on polite literature, and on life and manners, but very unequally written, together with some insipid poems, and several dramatic pieces. He possessed a considerable degree of wit and humour, and great knowledge of the world. He appears to have had a very intimate acquaintance with Roman literature; but acknowledged that he did not understand the Greek language. His works in French have passed through many editions, and been printed in different sizes. One edition is in two volumes, 4to,and some of the editions are in seven volumes, 12mo. An English translation of ’some of his works was published in two volumes, in 1700, 8vo; and a translation of some other of his pieces in 1705, in one volume, 8vo, under the title of “The posthumous Works of M. de St. Evremond, containing variety of elegant essays, letters, poems, and other miscellaneous pieces on several curious subjects.” Another translation, in two volumes, 8vo, was published by Mr. Des Maizeaux, in 1714, with a dedication to lord Halifax. But the best edition was published by the same editor, with the life of the author prefixed, in 1728, in three volumes, 8vo. This translation, however, does not cqntain our author’s poems, nor his dramatic pieces. There is also a collection of his anecdotes and opinions among the “Ana.” His reputation has sunk considerably among his own coun-r trymen, nor has there been any edition of his works printed in Franco for more than half a century. They consider none of his writings as worthy of perusal, except what he wrote on the genius of the Greeks and Romans, on | manners, on the peace of the Pyrenees, on the duke of LongueviHe, and the conversation of the marshal Hocquincourt with father Canaye. In his comedies they find neither wit nor interest, and assert that his verses have more vivacity than genuine poetry; but they bestow higher praise on his prose, and except only to his frequent affectation of antithesis and point. La Harpe, in a well-written character of his works, ascribes his reputation more to fashion and artful management, than to real merit. As to his personal character, enough has been said in the preceding sketch to exhibit its most striking features, those of the wit, the courtier, and the voluptuary. 1


Life by Des Maizeaux in his wovks. Biog Brit. Nichols’s Atterbury. Vol |, Malone’s Dryden, vol. IV. p. 6^. Spence’s Anecdotes, ms.