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themselves in a word. The joy that he takes in such descriptions soon infects the reader, who finds before long that he is being carried away by the ardour of the chase, and that at last he seizes upon the quivering quarry with all the excitement and all the fury of SaintSimon himself. Though it would, indeed, be a mistake to suppose that Saint-Simon was always furious—the wonderful portraits of the Duchesse de Bourgogne and the Prince de Conti are in themselves sufficient to disprove that-yet there can be no doubt that his hatreds exceeded his loves, and that, in his character-drawing, he was, as it were, more at home when he detested. Then the victim is indeed dissected with a loving hand; then the details of incrimination pour out in a multitudinous stream; then the indefatigable brush of the master darkens the deepest shadows and throws the most glaring deformities into still bolder relief; then disgust, horror, pity, and ridicule finish the work which scorn and indignation had begun. Nor, in spite of the virulence of his method, do his portraits ever sink to the level of caricatures. His most malevolent exaggerations are yet so realistic that they carry conviction. When he had fashioned to his liking his terrific images-his Vendôme, his Noailles, his Pontchartrain, his Duchesse de Berry, and a hundred morehe never forgot, in the extremity of his ferocity, to commit the last insult, and to breathe into their nostrils the fatal breath of life.
And it is not simply in detached portraits that Saint-Simon's descriptive powers show themselves; they are no less remarkable in the evocation of crowded and elaborate scenes. He is a master of movement; he can make great groups of persons flow and dispose themselves and disperse again; he can produce the effect of a multitude under the dominion of some common agitation, the waves of excitement spreading in widening circles, amid the conflicting currents of curiosity and suspicion, fear and hope. He is assiduous in his descriptions of the details of places, and invariably heightens the effect of his emotional climaxes by his dramatic management of the physical décor. Thus his readers get to know the Versailles of that age as if they had lived in it; they are familiar with the great rooms and the long gallery; they can tell the way to the king's bedchamber, or wait by the mysterious door of Madame de Maintenon; or remember which Prince had rooms opening out on to the Terrace near the Orangery, and which great family had apartments in the new wing. More than this, Saint-Simon has the art of conjuring up-often in a phrase or two those curious intimate visions which seem to reveal the very soul of a place. How much more one knows about the extraordinary palace how one feels the very pulse of the machine when Saint-Simon has shown one in a flash a door opening, on a sudden, at dead of night, in an unlighted corridor, and the haughty Duc d'Harcourt stepping out among a blaze of torches, to vanish again, as swiftly as he had come, into the mysterious darkness!
Or when one has seen, amid the cold and snow of a cruel winter, the white faces of the courtiers pressed against the window-panes of the palace, as the messengers ride in from the seat of war with their dreadful catalogues of disasters and deaths!
Saint-Simon's style is the precise counterpart of his matter. It is coloured and vital to the highest degree. It is the style of a writer who does not care how many solecisms he commits-how disordered his sentences may be, how incorrect his grammar, how forced or undignified his expressions—so long as he can put on to paper in black and white the passionate vision that is in his mind. The result is something unique in French literature. If Saint-Simon had tried to write with academic correctness
and even if he had succeeded—he certainly would have spoilt his book. Fortunately, academic correctness did not interest him, while the exact delineament of his observations did. He is not afraid of using colloquialisms which every critic of the time would have shuddered at, and which, by their raciness and flavour, add enormously to his effects. His writing is also extremely metaphorical; technical terms are thrown in helter-skelter whenever the meaning would benefit; and the boldest constructions at every turn are suddenly brought into being. In describing the subtle spiritual sympathy which existed between Fénelon and Madame de Guyon, he strikes out the unforgettable phrase_“leur sublime s'amalgama,” which in its compression, its singularity, its vividness, reminds one rather of an English Elizabethan than a French writer of the eighteenth century. The vast movement of his sentences is particularly characteristic. Clause follows clause, image is piled upon image, the words hurry out upon one another's heels in clusters, until the construction melts away under the burning pressure of the excitement, to re-form as best it may while the agitated period still expands in endless ramifications. His book is like a tropical forest-luxuriant, bewildering, enormous—with the gayest hummingbirds among the branches, and the vilest monsters in the entangled grass.
Saint-Simon, so far as the influence of his contemporaries was concerned, might have been living in the Middle Ages or the moon. At a time when Voltaire's fame was ringing through Europe, he refers to him incidentally as an insignificant scribbler, and misspells his name. But the combination of such abilities and such aloofness was a singular exception, becoming, indeed, more extraordinary and improbable every day. For now the movement which had begun in the early years of the century was entering upon a new phase. The change came during the decade 1750–60, when, on the one hand, it had become obvious that all the worst features of the old régime were to be perpetuated indefinitely under the incompetent government of Louis XV, and when, on the other hand, the generation which had been brought up under the influence of Montesquieu and Voltaire came to maturity. A host of new writers, eager, positive, and resolute, burst upon the public, determined to expose to the uttermost the evils of the existing system, and, if possible, to end them. Henceforward, until the meeting of