The Duke of Saint-Simon (1675—1755) was by all accounts, including his own, a sensitive, self-obsessed, ill-tempered man. A courtier and phenomenal chronicler of court life under Louis XIV, he produced the monumental work Memoirs, running to thousands of pages, in which the intrigues, personalities, activities, and gossip of life at Versailles are recorded in acerbic detail. Drawing heavily on these Memoirs, renowned historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie offers a wonderful portrait of life under Louis XIV, focusing on the fundamental issues of hierarchy and rank in this tightly controlled universe.
Saint-Simon and the Court of Louis XIV, expertly translated by Arthur Goldhammer, is a historical essay about court life, built with the wide range of tools Ladurie so expertly employs: ethnography, history, literary criticism, and historiography. Ladurie recreates a world in which man is most definitely born unequal, a world circumscribed entirely by purity of bloodline, which nonetheless directly preceded the birth of democratic thought and political action. Locked into a virtual caste system, courtiers formed within their ranks cabals, factions, and groups bonded by common ideological principles in order to survive the political order of the court. Thus Saint-Simon and the Court of Louis XIV is not only about Saint-Simon's place in this constellation but also the constellation itself and how understanding it forces us to a reevaluation of political life in France during the Old Regime.
Including a biographical sketch of Saint-Simon and more than 30 illustrations of court life and its members, Saint-Simon and the Court of Louis XIV will delight those interested in French history as well as instruct those interested in political history.
About Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie
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Published July 1, 2001
by University Of Chicago Press.
History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel.