Familiar Studies of Men & Books
Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 4 out of 5

grimace, pulled by a merry-andrew, who has found a certain
despicable eminence over human respect and human affections
by perching himself astride upon the gallows. Between these
two views, at best, all temperate judgments will be found to
fall; and rather, as I imagine, towards the last.

There were two things on which he felt with perfect and, in
one case, even threatening sincerity.

The first of these was an undisguised envy of those richer
than himself. He was for ever drawing a parallel, already
exemplified from his own words, between the happy life of the
well-to-do and the miseries of the poor. Burns, too proud
and honest not to work, continued through all reverses to
sing of poverty with a light, defiant note. Beranger waited
till he was himself beyond the reach of want, before writing
the OLD VAGABOND or JACQUES. Samuel Johnson, although he was
very sorry to be poor, "was a great arguer for the advantages
of poverty" in his ill days. Thus it is that brave men carry
their crosses, and smile with the fox burrowing in their
vitals. But Villon, who had not the courage to be poor with
honesty, now whiningly implores our sympathy, now shows his
teeth upon the dung-heap with an ugly snarl. He envies
bitterly, envies passionately. Poverty, he protests, drives
men to steal, as hunger makes the wolf sally from the forest.
The poor, he goes on, will always have a carping word to say,
or, if that outlet be denied, nourish rebellious thoughts.
It is a calumny on the noble army of the poor. Thousands in
a small way of life, ay, and even in the smallest, go through
life with tenfold as much honour and dignity and peace of
mind, as the rich gluttons whose dainties and state-beds
awakened Villon's covetous temper. And every morning's sun
sees thousands who pass whistling to their toil. But Villon
was the "mauvais pauvre" defined by Victor Hugo, and, in its
English expression, so admirably stereotyped by Dickens. He
was the first wicked sansculotte. He is the man of genius
with the moleskin cap. He is mighty pathetic and beseeching
here in the street, but I would not go down a dark road with
him for a large consideration.

The second of the points on which he was genuine and emphatic
was common to the middle ages; a deep and somewhat snivelling
conviction of the transitory nature of this life and the pity
and horror of death. Old age and the grave, with some dark
and yet half-sceptical terror of an after-world - these were
ideas that clung about his bones like a disease. An old ape,
as he says, may play all the tricks in its repertory, and
none of them will tickle an audience into good humour.
"Tousjours vieil synge est desplaisant." It is not the old
jester who receives most recognition at a tavern party, but
the young fellow, fresh and handsome, who knows the new
slang, and carries off his vice with a certain air. Of this,
as a tavern jester himself, he would be pointedly conscious.
As for the women with whom he was best acquainted, his
reflections on their old age, in all their harrowing pathos,
shall remain in the original for me. Horace has disgraced
himself to something the same tune; but what Horace throws
out with an ill-favoured laugh, Villon dwells on with an
almost maudlin whimper.

It is in death that he finds his truest inspiration in the
swift and sorrowful change that overtakes beauty; in the
strange revolution by which great fortunes and renowns are
diminished to a handful of churchyard dust; and in the utter
passing away of what was once lovable and mighty. It is in
this that the mixed texture of his thought enables him to
reach such poignant and terrible effects, and to enchance
pity with ridicule, like a man cutting capers to a funeral
march. It is in this, also, that he rises out of himself
into the higher spheres of art. So, in the ballade by which
he is best known, he rings the changes on names that once
stood for beautiful and queenly women, and are now no more
than letters and a legend. "Where are the snows of yester
year?" runs the burden. And so, in another not so famous, he
passes in review the different degrees of bygone men, from
the holy Apostles and the golden Emperor of the East, down to
the heralds, pursuivants, and trumpeters, who also bore their
part in the world's pageantries and ate greedily at great
folks' tables: all this to the refrain of "So much carry the
winds away!" Probably, there was some melancholy in his mind
for a yet lower grade, and Montigny and Colin de Cayeux
clattering their bones on Paris gibbet. Alas, and with so
pitiful an experience of life, Villon can offer us nothing
but terror and lamentation about death! No one has ever more
skilfully communicated his own disenchantment; no one ever
blown a more ear-piercing note of sadness. This unrepentant
thief can attain neither to Christian confidence, nor to the
spirit of the bright Greek saying, that whom the gods love
die early. It is a poor heart, and a poorer age, that cannot
accept the conditions of life with some heroic readiness.

* * * *

The date of the LARGE TESTAMENT is the last date in the
poet's biography. After having achieved that admirable and
despicable performance, he disappears into the night from
whence he came. How or when he died, whether decently in bed
or trussed up to a gallows, remains a riddle for foolhardy
commentators. It appears his health had suffered in the pit
at Meun; he was thirty years of age and quite bald; with the
notch in his under lip where Sermaise had struck him with the
sword, and what wrinkles the reader may imagine. In default
of portraits, this is all I have been able to piece together,
and perhaps even the baldness should be taken as a figure of
his destitution. A sinister dog, in all likelihood, but with
a look in his eye, and the loose flexile mouth that goes with
wit and an overweening sensual temperament. Certainly the
sorriest figure on the rolls of fame.


FOR one who was no great politician, nor (as men go)
especially wise, capable or virtuous, Charles of Orleans is
more than usually enviable to all who love that better sort
of fame which consists in being known not widely, but
intimately. "To be content that time to come should know
there was such a man, not caring whether they knew more of
him, or to subsist under naked denominations, without deserts
or noble acts," is, says Sir Thomas Browne, a frigid
ambition. It is to some more specific memory that youth
looks forward in its vigils. Old kings are sometimes
disinterred in all the emphasis of life, the hands untainted
by decay, the beard that had so often wagged in camp or
senate still spread upon the royal bosom; and in busts and
pictures, some similitude of the great and beautiful of
former days is handed down. In this way, public curiosity
may be gratified, but hardly any private aspiration after
fame. It is not likely that posterity will fall in love with
us, but not impossible that it may respect or sympathise; and
so a man would rather leave behind him the portrait of his
spirit than a portrait of his face, FIGURA ANIMI MAGIS QUAM
CORPORIS. Of those who have thus survived themselves most
completely, left a sort of personal seduction behind them in
the world, and retained, after death, the art of making
friends, Montaigne and Samuel Johnson certainly stand first.
But we have portraits of all sorts of men, from august Caesar
to the king's dwarf; and all sorts of portraits, from a
Titian treasured in the Louvre to a profile over the grocer's
chimney shelf. And so in a less degree, but no less truly,
than the spirit of Montaigne lives on in the delightful
Essays, that of Charles of Orleans survives in a few old
songs and old account-books; and it is still in the choice of
the reader to make this duke's acquaintance, and, if their
humours suit, become his friend.


His birth - if we are to argue from a man's parents - was
above his merit. It is not merely that he was the grandson
of one king, the father of another, and the uncle of a third;
but something more specious was to be looked for from the son
of his father, Louis de Valois, Duke of Orleans, brother to
the mad king Charles VI., lover of Queen Isabel, and the
leading patron of art and one of the leading politicians in
France. And the poet might have inherited yet higher virtues
from his mother, Valentina of Milan, a very pathetic figure
of the age, the faithful wife of an unfaithful husband, and
the friend of a most unhappy king. The father, beautiful,
eloquent, and accomplished, exercised a strange fascination
over his contemporaries; and among those who dip nowadays
into the annals of the time there are not many - and these
few are little to be envied - who can resist the fascination
of the mother. All mankind owe her a debt of gratitude
because she brought some comfort into the life of the poor
madman who wore the crown of France.

Born (May 1391) of such a noble stock, Charles was to know
from the first all favours of nature and art. His father's
gardens were the admiration of his contemporaries; his
castles were situated in the most agreeable parts of France,
and sumptuously adorned. We have preserved, in an inventory
of 1403, the description of tapestried rooms where Charles
may have played in childhood. (1) "A green room, with the
ceiling full of angels, and the DOSSIER of shepherds and
shepherdesses seeming (FAISANT CONTENANCE) to eat nuts and
cherries. A room of gold, silk and worsted, with a device of
little children in a river, and the sky full of birds. A
room of green tapestry, showing a knight and lady at chess in
a pavilion. Another green room, with shepherdesses in a
trellised garden worked in gold and silk. A carpet
representing cherry-trees, where there is a fountain, and a
lady gathering cherries in a basin." These were some of the
pictures over which his fancy might busy itself of an
afternoon, or at morning as he lay awake in bed. With our
deeper and more logical sense of life, we can have no idea
how large a space in the attention of mediaeval men might be
occupied by such figured hangings on the wall. There was
something timid and purblind in the view they had of the
world. Morally, they saw nothing outside of traditional
axioms; and little of the physical aspect of things entered
vividly into their mind, beyond what was to be seen on church
windows and the walls and floors of palaces. The reader will
remember how Villon's mother conceived of heaven and hell and
took all her scanty stock of theology from the stained glass
that threw its light upon her as she prayed. And there is
scarcely a detail of external effect in the chronicles and
romances of the time, but might have been borrowed at second
hand from a piece of tapestry. It was a stage in the history
of mankind which we may see paralleled, to some extent, in
the first infant school, where the representations of lions
and elephants alternate round the wall with moral verses and
trite presentments of the lesser virtues. So that to live in
a house of many pictures was tantamount, for the time, to a
liberal education in itself.

(1) Champollion-Figeac's LOUIS ET CHARLES D'ORLEANS, p. 348.

At Charles's birth an order of knighthood was inaugurated in
his honour. At nine years old, he was a squire; at eleven,
he had the escort of a chaplain and a schoolmaster; at
twelve, his uncle the king made him a pension of twelve
thousand livres d'or. (1) He saw the most brilliant and the
most learned persons of France, in his father's Court; and
would not fail to notice that these brilliant and learned
persons were one and all engaged in rhyming. Indeed, if it
is difficult to realise the part played by pictures, it is
perhaps even more difficult to realise that played by verses
in the polite and active history of the age. At the siege of
Pontoise, English and French exchanged defiant ballades over
the walls. (2) If a scandal happened, as in the loathsome
thirty-third story of the CENT NOUVELLES NOUVELLES, all the
wits must make rondels and chansonettes, which they would
hand from one to another with an unmanly sneer. Ladies
carried their favourite's ballades in their girdles. (3)
Margaret of Scotland, all the world knows already, kissed
Alain Chartier's lips in honour of the many virtuous thoughts
and golden sayings they had uttered; but it is not so well
known, that this princess was herself the most industrious of
poetasters, that she is supposed to have hastened her death
by her literary vigils, and sometimes wrote as many as twelve
rondels in the day. (4) It was in rhyme, even, that the
young Charles should learn his lessons. He might get all
manner of instruction in the truly noble art of the chase,
not without a smack of ethics by the way, from the
compendious didactic poem of Gace de la Bigne. Nay, and it
was in rhyme that he should learn rhyming: in the verses of
his father's Maitre d'Hotel, Eustache Deschamps, which
treated of "l'art de dictier et de faire chancons, ballades,
virelais et rondeaux," along with many other matters worth
attention, from the courts of Heaven to the misgovernment of
France. (5) At this rate, all knowledge is to be had in a
goody, and the end of it is an old song. We need not wonder
when we hear from Monstrelet that Charles was a very well
educated person. He could string Latin texts together by the
hour, and make ballades and rondels better than Eustache
Deschamps himself. He had seen a mad king who would not
change his clothes, and a drunken emperor who could not keep
his hand from the wine-cup. He had spoken a great deal with
jesters and fiddlers, and with the profligate lords who
helped his father to waste the revenues of France. He had
seen ladies dance on into broad daylight, and much burning of
torches and waste of dainties and good wine. (6) And when
all is said, it was no very helpful preparation for the
battle of life. "I believe Louis XI.," writes Comines,
"would not have saved himself, if he had not been very
differently brought up from such other lords as I have seen
educated in this country; for these were taught nothing but
to play the jackanapes with finery and fine words." (7) I am
afraid Charles took such lessons to heart, and conceived of
life as a season principally for junketing and war. His view
of the whole duty of man, so empty, vain, and wearisome to
us, was yet sincerely and consistently held. When he came in
his ripe years to compare the glory of two kingdoms, England
and France, it was on three points only, - pleasures, valour,
and riches, - that he cared to measure them; and in the very
outset of that tract he speaks of the life of the great as
passed, "whether in arms, as in assaults, battles, and
sieges, or in jousts and tournaments, in high and stately
festivities and in funeral solemnities." (8)

(1) D'Hericault's admirable MEMOIR, prefixed to his edition
of Charles's works, vol. i. p. xi.
(2) Vallet de Viriville, CHARLES VII. ET SON EPOQUE, ii. 428,
note 2.
(3) See Lecoy de la Marche, LE ROI RENE, i. 167.
(4) Vallet, CHARLES VII, ii. 85, 86, note 2.
(5) Champollion-Figeac, 193-198.
(6) Champollion-Figeac, 209.
(7) The student will see that there are facts cited, and
expressions borrowed, in this paragraph, from a period
extending over almost the whole of Charles's life, instead of
being confined entirely to his boyhood. As I do not believe
there was any change, so I do not believe there is any
anachronism involved.
translated and admirably edited by Mr. Henry Pyne. For the
attribution of this tract to Charles, the reader is referred
to Mr. Pyne's conclusive argument.

When he was no more than thirteen, his father had him
affianced to Isabella, virgin-widow of our Richard II. and
daughter of his uncle Charles VI.; and, two years after (June
29, 1406), the cousins were married at Compiegne, he fifteen,
she seventeen years of age. It was in every way a most
desirable match. The bride brought five hundred thousand
francs of dowry. The ceremony was of the utmost
magnificence, Louis of Orleans figuring in crimson velvet,
adorned with no less than seven hundred and ninety-five
pearls, gathered together expressly for this occasion. And
no doubt it must have been very gratifying for a young
gentleman of fifteen, to play the chief part in a pageant so
gaily put upon the stage. Only, the bridegroom might have
been a little older; and, as ill-luck would have it, the
bride herself was of this way of thinking, and would not be
consoled for the loss of her title as queen, or the
contemptible age of her new husband. PLEUROIT FORT LADITE
ISABEAU; the said Isabella wept copiously. (1) It is fairly
debatable whether Charles was much to be pitied when, three
years later (September 1409), this odd marriage was dissolved
by death. Short as it was, however, this connection left a
lasting stamp upon his mind; and we find that, in the last
decade of his life, and after he had remarried for perhaps
the second time, he had not yet forgotten or forgiven the
violent death of Richard II. "Ce mauvais cas" - that ugly
business, he writes, has yet to be avenged.

(1) Des Ursins.

The marriage festivity was on the threshold of evil days.
The great rivalry between Louis of Orleans and John the
Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, had been forsworn with the most
reverend solemnities. But the feud was only in abeyance, and
John of Burgundy still conspired in secret. On November 23,
1407 - in that black winter when the frost lasted six-and-
sixty days on end - a summons from the king reached Louis of
Orleans at the Hotel Barbette, where he had been supping with
Queen Isabel. It was seven or eight in the evening, and the
inhabitants of the quarter were abed. He set forth in haste,
accompanied by two squires riding on one horse, a page, and a
few varlets running with torches. As he rode, he hummed to
himself and trifled with his glove. And so riding, he was
beset by the bravoes of his enemy and slain. My lord of
Burgundy set an ill precedent in this deed, as he found some
years after on the bridge of Montereau; and even in the
meantime he did not profit quietly by his rival's death. The
horror of the other princes seems to have perturbed himself;
he avowed his guilt in the council, tried to brazen it out,
finally lost heart and fled at full gallop, cutting bridges
behind him, towards Bapaume and Lille. And so there we have
the head of one faction, who had just made himself the most
formidable man in France, engaged in a remarkably hurried
journey, with black care on the pillion. And meantime, on
the other side, the widowed duchess came to Paris in
appropriate mourning, to demand justice for her husband's
death. Charles VI., who was then in a lucid interval, did
probably all that he could, when he raised up the kneeling
suppliant with kisses and smooth words. Things were at a
dead-lock. The criminal might be in the sorriest fright, but
he was still the greatest of vassals. Justice was easy to
ask and not difficult to promise; how it was to be executed
was another question. No one in France was strong enough to
punish John of Burgundy; and perhaps no one, except the
widow, very sincere in wishing to punish him.

She, indeed, was eaten up of zeal; but the intensity of her
eagerness wore her out; and she died about a year after the
murder, of grief and indignation, unrequited love and
unsatisfied resentment. It was during the last months of her
life that this fiery and generous woman, seeing the soft
hearts of her own children, looked with envy on a certain
natural son of her husband's destined to become famous in the
sequel as the Bastard of Orleans, or the brave Dunois. "YOU
WERE STOLEN FROM ME," she said; "it is you who are fit to
avenge your father." These are not the words of ordinary
mourning, or of an ordinary woman. It is a saying, over
which Balzac would have rubbed his episcopal hands. That the
child who was to avenge her husband had not been born out of
her body, was a thing intolerable to Valentina of Milan; and
the expression of this singular and tragic jealousy is
preserved to us by a rare chance, in such straightforward and
vivid words as we are accustomed to hear only on the stress
of actual life, or in the theatre. In history - where we see
things as in a glass darkly, and the fashion of former times
is brought before us, deplorably adulterated and defaced,
fitted to very vague and pompous words, and strained through
many men's minds of everything personal or precise - this
speech of the widowed duchess startles a reader, somewhat as
the footprint startled Robinson Crusoe. A human voice breaks
in upon the silence of the study, and the student is aware of
a fellow-creature in his world of documents. With such a
clue in hand, one may imagine how this wounded lioness would
spur and exasperate the resentment of her children, and what
would be the last words of counsel and command she left
behind her.

With these instancies of his dying mother - almost a voice
from the tomb - still tingling in his ears, the position of
young Charles of Orleans, when he was left at the head of
that great house, was curiously similar to that of
Shakspeare's Hamlet. The times were out of joint; here was a
murdered father to avenge on a powerful murderer; and here,
in both cases, a lad of inactive disposition born to set
these matters right. Valentina's commendation of Dunois
involved a judgment on Charles, and that judgment was exactly
correct. Whoever might be, Charles was not the man to avenge
his father. Like Hamlet, this son of a dear father murdered
was sincerely grieved at heart. Like Hamlet, too, he could
unpack his heart with words, and wrote a most eloquent letter
to the king, complaining that what was denied to him would
not be denied "to the lowest born and poorest man on earth."
Even in his private hours he strove to preserve a lively
recollection of his injury, and keep up the native hue of
resolution. He had gems engraved with appropriate legends,
hortatory or threatening: "DIEU LE SCET," God knows it; or
"SOUVENEZ-VOUS DE - " Remember! (1) It is only towards the
end that the two stories begin to differ; and in some points
the historical version is the more tragic. Hamlet only
stabbed a silly old councillor behind the arras; Charles of
Orleans trampled France for five years under the hoofs of his
banditti. The miscarriage of Hamlet's vengeance was
confined, at widest, to the palace; the ruin wrought by
Charles of Orleans was as broad as France.

(1) Michelet, iv. App. 179, p. 337.

Yet the first act of the young duke is worthy of honourable
mention. Prodigal Louis had made enormous debts; and there
is a story extant, to illustrate how lightly he himself
regarded these commercial obligations. It appears that
Louis, after a narrow escape he made in a thunder-storm, had
a smart access of penitence, and announced he would pay his
debts on the following Sunday. More than eight hundred
creditors presented themselves, but by that time the devil
was well again, and they were shown the door with more gaiety
than politeness. A time when such cynical dishonesty was
possible for a man of culture is not, it will be granted, a
fortunate epoch for creditors. When the original debtor was
so lax, we may imagine how an heir would deal with the
incumbrances of his inheritance. On the death of Philip the
Forward, father of that John the Fearless whom we have seen
at work, the widow went through the ceremony of a public
renunciation of goods; taking off her purse and girdle, she
left them on the grave, and thus, by one notable act,
cancelled her husband's debts and defamed his honour. The
conduct of young Charles of Orleans was very different. To
meet the joint liabilities of his father and mother (for
Valentina also was lavish), he had to sell or pledge a
quantity of jewels; and yet he would not take advantage of a
pretext, even legally valid, to diminish the amount. Thus,
one Godefroi Lefevre, having disbursed many odd sums for the
late duke, and received or kept no vouchers, Charles ordered
that he should be believed upon his oath. (1) To a modern
mind this seems as honourable to his father's memory as if
John the Fearless had been hanged as high as Haman. And as
things fell out, except a recantation from the University of
Paris, which had justified the murder out of party feeling,
and various other purely paper reparations, this was about
the outside of what Charles was to effect in that direction.
He lived five years, and grew up from sixteen to twenty-one,
in the midst of the most horrible civil war, or series of
civil wars, that ever devastated France; and from first to
last his wars were ill-starred, or else his victories
useless. Two years after the murder (March 1409), John the
Fearless having the upper hand for the moment, a shameful and
useless reconciliation took place, by the king's command, in
the church of Our Lady at Chartres. The advocate of the Duke
of Burgundy stated that Louis of Orleans had been killed "for
the good of the king's person and realm." Charles and his
brothers, with tears of shame, under protest, POUR NE PAS
DESOBEIR AU ROI, forgave their father's murderer and swore
peace upon the missal. It was, as I say, a shameful and
useless ceremony; the very greffier, entering it in his
register, wrote in the margin, "PAX, PAX, INQUIT PROPHETA, ET
NON EST PAX." (2) Charles was soon after allied with the
abominable Bernard d'Armagnac, even betrothed or married to a
daughter of his, called by a name that sounds like a
contradiction in terms, Bonne d'Armagnac. From that time
forth, throughout all this monstrous period - a very
nightmare in the history of France - he is no more than a
stalking-horse for the ambitious Gascon. Sometimes the smoke
lifts, and you can see him for the twinkling of an eye, a
very pale figure; at one moment there is a rumour he will be
crowned king; at another, when the uproar has subsided, he
will be heard still crying out for justice; and the next
(1412), he is showing himself to the applauding populace on
the same horse with John of Burgundy. But these are
exceptional seasons, and, for the most part, he merely rides
at the Gascon's bridle over devastated France. His very
party go, not by the name of Orleans, but by the name of
Armagnac, Paris is in the hands of the butchers: the peasants
have taken to the woods. Alliances are made and broken as if
in a country dance; the English called in, now by this one,
now by the other. Poor people sing in church, with white
faces and lamentable music: "DOMINE JESU, PARCE POPULO TUO,
DIRIGE IN VIAM PACIS PRINCIPES." And the end and upshot of
the whole affair for Charles of Orleans is another peace with
John the Fearless. France is once more tranquil, with the
tranquillity of ruin; he may ride home again to Blois, and
look, with what countenance he may, on those gems he had got
engraved in the early days of his resentment, "SOUVENEZ-VOUS
DE - " Remember! He has killed Polonius, to be sure; but
the king is never a penny the worse.

(1) Champollion-Figeac, pp. 279-82.
(2) Michelet, iv. pp. 123-4.


From the battle of Agincourt (Oct. 1415) dates the second
period of Charles's life. The English reader will remember
the name of Orleans in the play of HENRY V.; and it is at
least odd that we can trace a resemblance between the puppet
and the original. The interjection, "I have heard a sonnet
begin so to one's mistress" (Act iii. scene 7), may very well
indicate one who was already an expert in that sort of
trifle; and the game of proverbs he plays with the Constable
in the same scene, would be quite in character for a man who
spent many years of his life capping verses with his
courtiers. Certainly, Charles was in the great battle with
five hundred lances (say, three thousand men), and there he
was made prisoner as he led the van. According to one story,
some ragged English archer shot him down; and some diligent
English Pistol, hunting ransoms on the field of battle,
extracted him from under a heap of bodies and retailed him to
our King Henry. He was the most important capture of the
day, and used with all consideration. On the way to Calais,
Henry sent him a present of bread and wine (and bread, you
will remember, was an article of luxury in the English camp),
but Charles would neither eat nor drink. Thereupon, Henry
came to visit him in his quarters. "Noble cousin," said he,
"how are you?" Charles replied that he was well. "Why,
then, do you neither eat nor drink?" And then with some
asperity, as I imagine, the young duke told him that "truly
he had no inclination for food." And our Henry improved the
occasion with something of a snuffle, assuring his prisoner
that God had fought against the French on account of their
manifold sins and transgressions. Upon this there supervened
the agonies of a rough sea passage; and many French lords,
Charles, certainly, among the number, declared they would
rather endure such another defeat than such another sore
trial on shipboard. Charles, indeed, never forgot his
sufferings. Long afterwards, he declared his hatred to a
seafaring life, and willingly yielded to England the empire
of the seas, "because there is danger and loss of life, and
God knows what pity when it storms; and sea-sickness is for
many people hard to bear; and the rough life that must be led
is little suitable for the nobility:" (1) which, of all
babyish utterances that ever fell from any public man, may
surely bear the bell. Scarcely disembarked, he followed his
victor, with such wry face as we may fancy, through the
streets of holiday London. And then the doors closed upon
his last day of garish life for more than a quarter of a
century. After a boyhood passed in the dissipations of a
luxurious court or in the camp of war, his ears still stunned
and his cheeks still burning from his enemies' jubilations;
out of all this ringing of English bells and singing of
English anthems, from among all these shouting citizens in
scarlet cloaks, and beautiful virgins attired in white, he
passed into the silence and solitude of a political prison.

(2) Sir H. Nicholas, AGINCOURT.

His captivity was not without alleviations. He was allowed
to go hawking, and he found England an admirable country for
the sport; he was a favourite with English ladies, and
admired their beauty; and he did not lack for money, wine, or
books; he was honourably imprisoned in the strongholds of
great nobles, in Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. But
when all is said, he was a prisoner for five-and-twenty
years. For five-and-twenty years he could not go where he
would, or do what he liked, or speak with any but his
gaolers. We may talk very wisely of alleviations; there is
only one alleviation for which the man would thank you: he
would thank you to open the door. With what regret Scottish
James I. bethought him (in the next room perhaps to Charles)
of the time when he rose "as early as the day." What would
he not have given to wet his boots once more with morning
dew, and follow his vagrant fancy among the meadows? The
only alleviation to the misery of constraint lies in the
disposition of the prisoner. To each one this place of
discipline brings his own lesson. It stirs Latude or Baron
Trenck into heroic action; it is a hermitage for pious and
conformable spirits. Beranger tells us he found prison life,
with its regular hours and long evenings, both pleasant and
begun in prison. It was after they were become (to use the
words of one of them), "Oh, worst imprisonment - the dungeon
of themselves!" that Homer and Milton worked so hard and so
well for the profit of mankind. In the year 1415 Henry V.
had two distinguished prisoners, French Charles of Orleans
and Scottish James I., who whiled away the hours of their
captivity with rhyming. Indeed, there can be no better
pastime for a lonely man than the mechanical exercise of
verse. Such intricate forms as Charles had been used to from
childhood, the ballade with its scanty rhymes; the rondel,
with the recurrence first of the whole, then of half the
burthen, in thirteen verses, seem to have been invented for
the prison and the sick bed. The common Scotch saying, on
the sight of anything operose and finical, "he must have had
little to do that made that!" might be put as epigraph on all
the song books of old France. Making such sorts of verse
belongs to the same class of pleasures as guessing acrostics
or "burying proverbs." It is almost purely formal, almost
purely verbal. It must be done gently and gingerly. It
keeps the mind occupied a long time, and never so intently as
to be distressing; for anything like strain is against the
very nature of the craft. Sometimes things go easily, the
refrains fall into their place as if of their own accord, and
it becomes something of the nature of an intellectual tennis;
you must make your poem as the rhymes will go, just as you
must strike your ball as your adversary played it. So that
these forms are suitable rather for those who wish to make
verses, than for those who wish to express opinions.
Sometimes, on the other hand, difficulties arise: rival
verses come into a man's head, and fugitive words elude his
memory. Then it is that he enjoys at the same time the
deliberate pleasures of a connoisseur comparing wines, and
the ardour of the chase. He may have been sitting all day
long in prison with folded hands; but when he goes to bed,
the retrospect will seem animated and eventful.

Besides confirming himself as an habitual maker of verses,
Charles acquired some new opinions during his captivity. He
was perpetually reminded of the change that had befallen him.
He found the climate of England cold and "prejudicial to the
human frame;" he had a great contempt for English fruit and
English beer; even the coal fires were unpleasing in his
eyes. (1) He was rooted up from among his friends and
customs and the places that had known him. And so in this
strange land he began to learn the love of his own. Sad
people all the world over are like to be moved when the wind
is in some particular quarter. So Burns preferred when it
was in the west, and blew to him from his mistress; so the
girl in the ballade, looking south to Yarrow, thought it
might carry a kiss betwixt her and her gallant; and so we
find Charles singing of the "pleasant wind that comes from
France." (2) One day, at "Dover-on-the-Sea," he looked
across the straits, and saw the sandhills about Calais. And
it happened to him, he tells us in a ballade, to remember his
happiness over there in the past; and he was both sad and
merry at the recollection, and could not have his fill of
gazing on the shores of France. (3) Although guilty of
unpatriotic acts, he had never been exactly unpatriotic in
feeling. But his sojourn in England gave, for the time at
least, some consistency to what had been a very weak and
ineffectual prejudice. He must have been under the influence
of more than usually solemn considerations, when he proceeded
to turn Henry's puritanical homily after Agincourt into a
ballade, and reproach France, and himself by implication,
with pride, gluttony, idleness, unbridled covetousness, and
sensuality. (4) For the moment, he must really have been
thinking more of France than of Charles of Orleans.

(2) Works (ed. d'Hericault), i. 43.
(3) IBID. 143.
(4) Works (ed. d'Hericault), i. 190.

And another lesson he learned. He who was only to be
released in case of peace, begins to think upon the
disadvantages of war. "Pray for peace," is his refrain: a
strange enough subject for the ally of Bernard d'Armagnac.
(1) But this lesson was plain and practical; it had one side
in particular that was specially attractive for Charles; and
he did not hesitate to explain it in so many words.
"Everybody," he writes - I translate roughly - "everybody
should be much inclined to peace, for everybody has a deal to
gain by it." (2)

(1) IBID. 144.
(2) IBID. 158.

Charles made laudable endeavours to acquire English, and even
learned to write a rondel in that tongue of quite average
mediocrity. (1) He was for some time billeted on the unhappy
Suffolk, who received fourteen shillings and fourpence a day
for his expenses; and from the fact that Suffolk afterwards
visited Charles in France while he was negotiating the
marriage of Henry VI., as well as the terms of that
nobleman's impeachment, we may believe there was some not
unkindly intercourse between the prisoner and his gaoler: a
fact of considerable interest when we remember that Suffolk's
wife was the granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. (2)
Apart from this, and a mere catalogue of dates and places,
only one thing seems evident in the story of Charles's
captivity. It seems evident that, as these five-and-twenty
years drew on, he became less and less resigned.
Circumstances were against the growth of such a feeling. One
after another of his fellow-prisoners was ransomed and went
home. More than once he was himself permitted to visit
France; where he worked on abortive treaties and showed
himself more eager for his own deliverance than for the
profit of his native land. Resignation may follow after a
reasonable time upon despair; but if a man is persecuted by a
series of brief and irritating hopes, his mind no more
attains to a settled frame of resolution, than his eye would
grow familiar with a night of thunder and lightning. Years
after, when he was speaking at the trial of that Duke of
Alencon, who began life so hopefully as the boyish favourite
of Joan of Arc, he sought to prove that captivity was a
harder punishment than death. "For I have had experience
myself," he said; "and in my prison of England, for the
weariness, danger, and displeasure in which I then lay, I
have many a time wished I had been slain at the battle where
they took me." (3) This is a flourish, if you will, but it
is something more. His spirit would sometimes rise up in a
fine anger against the petty desires and contrarieties of
life. He would compare his own condition with the quiet and
dignified estate of the dead; and aspire to lie among his
comrades on the field of Agincourt, as the Psalmist prayed to
have the wings of a dove and dwell in the uttermost parts of
the sea. But such high thoughts came to Charles only in a

(1) M. Champollion-Figeac gives many in his editions of
Charles's works, most (as I should think) of very doubtful
authenticity, or worse.
(2) Rymer, x. 564. D'Hericault's MEMOIR, p. xli. Gairdner's
PASTON LETTERS, i. 27, 99.
(3) Champollion-Figeac, 377.

John the Fearless had been murdered in his turn on the bridge
of Montereau so far back as 1419. His son, Philip the Good -
partly to extinguish the feud, partly that he might do a
popular action, and partly, in view of his ambitious schemes,
to detach another great vassal from the throne of France -
had taken up the cause of Charles of Orleans, and negotiated
diligently for his release. In 1433 a Burgundian embassy was
admitted to an interview with the captive duke, in the
presence of Suffolk. Charles shook hands most affectionately
with the ambassadors. They asked after his health. "I am
well enough in body," he replied, "but far from well in mind.
I am dying of grief at having to pass the best days of my
life in prison, with none to sympathise." The talk falling
on the chances of peace, Charles referred to Suffolk if he
were not sincere and constant in his endeavours to bring it
about. "If peace depended on me," he said, "I should procure
it gladly, were it to cost me my life seven days after." We
may take this as showing what a large price he set, not so
much on peace, as on seven days of freedom. Seven days! - he
would make them seven years in the employment. Finally, he
assured the ambassadors of his good will to Philip of
Burgundy; squeezed one of them by the hand and nipped him
twice in the arm to signify things unspeakable before
Suffolk; and two days after sent them Suffolk's barber, one
Jean Carnet, a native of Lille, to testify more freely of his
sentiments. "As I speak French," said this emissary, "the
Duke of Orleans is more familiar with me than with any other
of the household; and I can bear witness he never said
anything against Duke Philip." (1) It will be remembered
that this person, with whom he was so anxious to stand well,
was no other than his hereditary enemy, the son of his
father's murderer. But the honest fellow bore no malice,
indeed not he. He began exchanging ballades with Philip,
whom he apostrophises as his companion, his cousin, and his
brother. He assures him that, soul and body, he is
altogether Burgundian; and protests that he has given his
heart in pledge to him. Regarded as the history of a
vendetta, it must be owned that Charles's life has points of
some originality. And yet there is an engaging frankness
about these ballades which disarms criticism. (2) You see
Charles throwing himself headforemost into the trap; you hear
Burgundy, in his answers begin to inspire him with his own
prejudices, and draw melancholy pictures of the misgovernment
of France. But Charles's own spirits are so high and so
amiable, and he is so thoroughly convinced his cousin is a
fine fellow, that one's scruples are carried away in the
torrent of his happiness and gratitude. And his would be a
sordid spirit who would not clap hands at the consummation
(Nov. 1440); when Charles, after having sworn on the
Sacrament that he would never again bear arms against
England, and pledged himself body and soul to the unpatriotic
faction in his own country, set out from London with a light
heart and a damaged integrity.

(1) Dom Plancher, iv. 178-9.
(2) Works, i. 157-63.

In the magnificent copy of Charles's poems, given by our
Henry VII. to Elizabeth of York on the occasion of their
marriage, a large illumination figures at the head of one of
the pages, which, in chronological perspective, is almost a
history of his imprisonment. It gives a view of London with
all its spires, the river passing through the old bridge and
busy with boats. One side of the White Tower has been taken
out, and we can see, as under a sort of shrine, the paved
room where the duke sits writing. He occupies a high-backed
bench in front of a great chimney; red and black ink are
before him; and the upper end of the apartment is guarded by
many halberdiers, with the red cross of England on their
breast. On the next side of the tower he appears again,
leaning out of window and gazing on the river; doubtless
there blows just then "a pleasant wind from out the land of
France," and some ship comes up the river: "the ship of good
news." At the door we find him yet again; this time
embracing a messenger, while a groom stands by holding two
saddled horses. And yet further to the left, a cavalcade
defiles out of the tower; the duke is on his way at last
towards "the sunshine of France."


During the five-and-twenty years of his captivity, Charles
had not lost in the esteem of his fellow-countrymen. For so
young a man, the head of so great a house, and so numerous a
party, to be taken prisoner as he rode in the vanguard of
France, and stereotyped for all men in this heroic attitude,
was to taste untimeously the honours of the grave. Of him,
as of the dead, it would be ungenerous to speak evil; what
little energy he had displayed would be remembered with
piety, when all that he had done amiss was courteously
forgotten. As English folk looked for Arthur; as Danes
awaited the coming of Ogier; as Somersetshire peasants or
sergeants of the Old Guard expected the return of Monmouth or
Napoleon; the countrymen of Charles of Orleans looked over
the straits towards his English prison with desire and
confidence. Events had so fallen out while he was rhyming
ballades, that he had become the type of all that was most
truly patriotic. The remnants of his old party had been the
chief defenders of the unity of France. His enemies of
Burgundy had been notoriously favourers and furtherers of
English domination. People forgot that his brother still lay
by the heels for an unpatriotic treaty with England, because
Charles himself had been taken prisoner patriotically
fighting against it. That Henry V. had left special orders
against his liberation, served to increase the wistful pity
with which he was regarded. And when, in defiance of all
contemporary virtue, and against express pledges, the English
carried war into their prisoner's fief, not only France, but
all thinking men in Christendom, were roused to indignation
against the oppressors, and sympathy with the victim. It was
little wonder if he came to bulk somewhat largely in the
imagination of the best of those at home. Charles le
Boutteillier, when (as the story goes) he slew Clarence at
Beauge, was only seeking an exchange for Charles of Orleans.
(1) It was one of Joan of Arc's declared intentions to
deliver the captive duke. If there was no other way, she
meant to cross the seas and bring him home by force. And she
professed before her judges a sure knowledge that Charles of
Orleans was beloved of God. (2)

(1) Vallet's CHARLES VII., i. 251.
(2) PROCES DE JEANNE D'ARC, i. 133-55.

Alas! it was not at all as a deliverer that Charles returned
to France. He was nearly fifty years old. Many changes had
been accomplished since, at twenty-three, he was taken on the
field of Agincourt. But of all these he was profoundly
ignorant, or had only heard of them in the discoloured
reports of Philip of Burgundy. He had the ideas of a former
generation, and sought to correct them by the scandal of a
factious party. With such qualifications he came back eager
for the domination, the pleasures, and the display that
befitted his princely birth. A long disuse of all political
activity combined with the flatteries of his new friends to
fill him with an overweening conceit of his own capacity and
influence. If aught had gone wrong in his absence, it seemed
quite natural men should look to him for its redress. Was
not King Arthur come again?

The Duke of Burgundy received him with politic honours. He
took his guest by his foible for pageantry, all the easier as
it was a foible of his own; and Charles walked right out of
prison into much the same atmosphere of trumpeting and bell-
ringing as he had left behind when he went in. Fifteen days
after his deliverance he was married to Mary of Cleves, at
St. Omer. The marriage was celebrated with the usual pomp of
the Burgundian court; there were joustings, and
illuminations, and animals that spouted wine; and many nobles
dined together, COMME EN BRIGADE, and were served abundantly
with many rich and curious dishes. (1) It must have reminded
Charles not a little of his first marriage at Compiegne; only
then he was two years the junior of his bride, and this time
he was five-and-thirty years her senior. It will be a fine
question which marriage promises more: for a boy of fifteen
to lead off with a lass of seventeen, or a man of fifty to
make a match of it with a child of fifteen. But there was
something bitter in both. The lamentations of Isabella will
not have been forgotten. As for Mary, she took up with one
Jaquet de la Lain, a sort of muscular Methody of the period,
with a huge appetite for tournaments, and a habit of
confessing himself the last thing before he went to bed. (2)
With such a hero, the young duchess's amours were most likely
innocent; and in all other ways she was a suitable partner
for the duke, and well fitted to enter into his pleasures.

(1) Monstrelet.
(2) Vallet's CHARLES VII., iii. chap. i. But see the
chronicle that bears Jaquet's name: a lean and dreary book.

When the festivities at Saint Omer had come to an end,
Charles and his wife set forth by Ghent and Tourney. The
towns gave him offerings of money as he passed through, to
help in the payment of his ransom. From all sides, ladies
and gentlemen thronged to offer him their services; some gave
him their sons for pages, some archers for a bodyguard; and
by the time he reached Tournay, he had a following of 300
horse. Everywhere he was received as though he had been the
King of France. (1) If he did not come to imagine himself
something of the sort, he certainly forgot the existence of
any one with a better claim to the title. He conducted
himself on the hypothesis that Charles VII. was another
Charles VI. He signed with enthusiasm that treaty of Arras,
which left France almost at the discretion of Burgundy. On
December 18 he was still no farther than Bruges, where he
entered into a private treaty with Philip; and it was not
until January 14, ten weeks after he disembarked in France,
and attended by a ruck of Burgundian gentlemen, that he
arrived in Paris and offered to present himself before
Charles VII. The king sent word that he might come, if he
would, with a small retinue, but not with his present
following; and the duke, who was mightily on his high horse
after all the ovations he had received, took the king's
attitude amiss, and turned aside into Touraine, to receive
more welcome and more presents, and be convoyed by torchlight
into faithful cities.

(1) Monstrelet.

And so you see, here was King Arthur home again, and matters
nowise mended in consequence. The best we can say is, that
this last stage of Charles's public life was of no long
duration. His confidence was soon knocked out of him in the
contact with others. He began to find he was an earthen
vessel among many vessels of brass; he began to be shrewdly
aware that he was no King Arthur. In 1442, at Limoges, he
made himself the spokesman of the malcontent nobility. The
king showed himself humiliatingly indifferent to his
counsels, and humiliatingly generous towards his necessities.
And there, with some blushes, he may be said to have taken
farewell of the political stage. A feeble attempt on the
county of Asti is scarce worth the name of exception.
Thenceforward let Ambition wile whom she may into the turmoil
of events, our duke will walk cannily in his well-ordered
garden, or sit by the fire to touch the slender reed. (1)

(1) D'Hericault's MEMOIR, xl. xli. Vallet, CHARLES VI., ii.


If it were given each of us to transplant his life wherever
he pleased in time or space, with all the ages and all the
countries of the world to choose from, there would be quite
an instructive diversity of taste. A certain sedentary
majority would prefer to remain where they were. Many would
choose the Renaissance; many some stately and simple period
of Grecian life; and still more elect to pass a few years
wandering among the villages of Palestine with an inspired
conductor. For some of our quaintly vicious contemporaries,
we have the decline of the Roman Empire and the reign of
Henry III. of France. But there are others not quite so
vicious, who yet cannot look upon the world with perfect
gravity, who have never taken the categorical imperative to
wife, and have more taste for what is comfortable than for
what is magnanimous and high; and I can imagine some of these
casting their lot in the Court of Blois during the last
twenty years of the life of Charles of Orleans.

The duke and duchess, their staff of officers and ladies, and
the high-born and learned persons who were attracted to Blois
on a visit, formed a society for killing time and perfecting
each other in various elegant accomplishments, such as we
might imagine for an ideal watering-place in the Delectable
Mountains. The company hunted and went on pleasure-parties;
they played chess, tables, and many other games. What we now
call the history of the period passed, I imagine, over the
heads of these good people much as it passes over our own.
News reached them, indeed, of great and joyful import.
William Peel received eight livres and five sous from the
duchess, when he brought the first tidings that Rouen was
recaptured from the English. (1) A little later and the duke
sang, in a truly patriotic vein, the deliverance of Guyenne
and Normandy. (2) They were liberal of rhymes and largesse,
and welcomed the prosperity of their country much as they
welcomed the coming of spring, and with no more thought of
collaborating towards the event. Religion was not forgotten
in the Court of Blois. Pilgrimages were agreeable and
picturesque excursions. In those days a well-served chapel
was something like a good vinery in our own, an opportunity
for display and the source of mild enjoyments. There was
probably something of his rooted delight in pageantry, as
well as a good deal of gentle piety, in the feelings with
which Charles gave dinner every Friday to thirteen poor
people, served them himself, and washed their feet with his
own hands. (3) Solemn affairs would interest Charles and his
courtiers from their trivial side. The duke perhaps cared
less for the deliverance of Guyenne and Normandy than for his
own verses on the occasion; just as Dr. Russell's
correspondence in THE TIMES was among the most material parts
of the Crimean War for that talented correspondent. And I
think it scarcely cynical to suppose that religion as well as
patriotism was principally cultivated as a means of filling
up the day.

(1) Champollion-Figeac, 368.
(2) Works, i. 115.
(3) D'Hericault's MEMOIR, xlv.

It was not only messengers fiery red with haste and charged
with the destiny of nations, who were made welcome at the
gates of Blois. If any man of accomplishment came that way,
he was sure of an audience, and something for his pocket.
The courtiers would have received Ben Jonson like Drummond of
Hawthornden, and a good pugilist like Captain Barclay. They
were catholic, as none but the entirely idle can be catholic.
It might be Pierre, called Dieu d'amours, the juggler; or it
might be three high English minstrels; or the two men,
players of ghitterns, from the kingdom of Scotland, who sang
the destruction of the Turks; or again Jehan Rognelet, player
of instruments of music, who played and danced with his wife
and two children; they would each be called into the castle
to give a taste of his proficiency before my lord the duke.
(1) Sometimes the performance was of a more personal
interest, and produced much the same sensations as are felt
on an English green on the arrival of a professional
cricketer, or round an English billiard table during a match
between Roberts and Cooke. This was when Jehan Negre, the
Lombard, came to Blois and played chess against all these
chess-players, and won much money from my lord and his
intimates; or when Baudet Harenc of Chalons made ballades
before all these ballade-makers. (2)

(1) ChampoIlion-Figeac, 381, 361, 381.
(2) Champollion-Figeac, 359,361.

It will not surprise the reader to learn they were all makers
of ballades and rondels. To write verses for May day, seems
to have been as much a matter of course, as to ride out with
the cavalcade that went to gather hawthorn. The choice of
Valentines was a standing challenge, and the courtiers pelted
each other with humorous and sentimental verses as in a
literary carnival. If an indecorous adventure befell our
friend Maistre Estienne le Gout, my lord the duke would turn
it into the funniest of rondels, all the rhymes being the
names of the cases of nouns or the moods of verbs; and
Maistre Estienne would make reply in similar fashion, seeking
to prune the story of its more humiliating episodes. If
Fredet was too long away from Court, a rondel went to upbraid
him; and it was in a rondel that Fredet would excuse himself.
Sometimes two or three, or as many as a dozen, would set to
work on the same refrain, the same idea, or in the same
macaronic jargon. Some of the poetasters were heavy enough;
others were not wanting in address; and the duchess herself
was among those who most excelled. On one occasion eleven
competitors made a ballade on the idea,

"I die of thirst beside the fountain's edge"
(Je meurs de soif empres de la fontaine).

These eleven ballades still exist; and one of them arrests
the attention rather from the name of the author than from
any special merit in itself. It purports to be the work of
Francois Villon; and so far as a foreigner can judge (which
is indeed a small way), it may very well be his. Nay, and if
any one thing is more probable than another, in the great
TABULA RASA, or unknown land, which we are fain to call the
biography of Villon, it seems probable enough that he may
have gone upon a visit to Charles of Orleans. Where Master
Baudet Harenc, of Chalons, found a sympathetic, or perhaps a
derisive audience (for who can tell nowadays the degree of
Baudet's excellence in his art?), favour would not be wanting
for the greatest ballade-maker of all time. Great as would
seem the incongruity, it may have pleased Charles to own a
sort of kinship with ragged singers, and whimsically regard
himself as one of the confraternity of poets. And he would
have other grounds of intimacy with Villon. A room looking
upon Windsor gardens is a different matter from Villon's
dungeon at Meun; yet each in his own degree had been tried in
prison. Each in his own way also, loved the good things of
this life and the service of the Muses. But the same gulf
that separated Burns from his Edinburgh patrons would
separate the singer of Bohemia from the rhyming duke. And it
is hard to imagine that Villon's training amongst thieves,
loose women, and vagabond students, had fitted him to move in
a society of any dignity and courtliness. Ballades are very
admirable things; and a poet is doubtless a most interesting
visitor. But among the courtiers of Charles, there would be
considerable regard for the proprieties of etiquette; and
even a duke will sometimes have an eye to his teaspoons.
Moreover, as a poet, I can conceive he may have disappointed
expectation. It need surprise nobody if Villon's ballade on
the theme,

"I die of thirst beside the fountain's edge,"

was but a poor performance. He would make better verses on
the lee-side of a flagon at the sign of the Pomme du Pin,
than in a cushioned settle in the halls of Blois.

Charles liked change of place. He was often not so much
travelling as making a progress; now to join the king for
some great tournament; now to visit King Rene, at Tarascon,
where he had a study of his own and saw all manner of
interesting things - oriental curios, King Rene painting
birds, and, what particularly pleased him, Triboulet, the
dwarf jester, whose skull-cap was no bigger than an orange.
(1) Sometimes the journeys were set about on horseback in a
large party, with the FOURRIERS sent forward to prepare a
lodging at the next stage. We find almost Gargantuan details
of the provision made by these officers against the duke's
arrival, of eggs and butter and bread, cheese and peas and
chickens, pike and bream and barbel, and wine both white and
red. (2) Sometimes he went by water in a barge, playing
chess or tables with a friend in the pavilion, or watching
other vessels as they went before the wind. (3) Children ran
along the bank, as they do to this day on the Crinan Canal;
and when Charles threw in money, they would dive and bring it
up. (4) As he looked on at their exploits, I wonder whether
that room of gold and silk and worsted came back into his
memory, with the device of little children in a river, and
the sky full of birds?

(1) Lecoy de la Marche, ROI RENE, II. 155, 177.
(2) Champollion-Figeac, chaps. v. and vi.
(3) IBID. 364; Works, i. 172.
(4) Champollion-Figeac, 364: "Jeter de l'argent aux petis
enfans qui estoient au long de Bourbon, pour les faire nonner
en l'eau et aller querre l'argent au fond."

He was a bit of a book-fancier, and had vied with his brother
Angouleme in bringing back the library of their grandfather
Charles V., when Bedford put it up for sale in London. (1)
The duchess had a library of her own; and we hear of her
borrowing romances from ladies in attendance on the blue-
stocking Margaret of Scotland. (2) Not only were books
collected, but new books were written at the court of Blois.
The widow of one Jean Fougere, a bookbinder, seems to have
done a number of odd commissions for the bibliophilous count.
She it was who received three vellum-skins to bind the
duchess's Book of Hours, and who was employed to prepare
parchment for the use of the duke's scribes. And she it was
who bound in vermilion leather the great manuscript of
Charles's own poems, which was presented to him by his
secretary, Anthony Astesan, with the text in one column, and
Astesan's Latin version in the other. (3)

(1) Champollion-Figeac, 387.
(2) NOUVELLE BIOGRAPHIE DIDOT, art. "Marie de Cleves."
Vallet, CHARLES VII, iii. 85, note 1.
(3) Champollion-Figeac, 383, 384-386.

Such tastes, with the coming of years, would doubtless take
the place of many others. We find in Charles's verse much
semi-ironical regret for other days, and resignation to
growing infirmities. He who had been "nourished in the
schools of love," now sees nothing either to please or
displease him. Old age has imprisoned him within doors,
where he means to take his ease, and let younger fellows
bestir themselves in life. He had written (in earlier days,
we may presume) a bright and defiant little poem in praise of
solitude. If they would but leave him alone with his own
thoughts and happy recollections, he declared it was beyond
the power of melancholy to affect him. But now, when his
animal strength has so much declined that he sings the
discomforts of winter instead of the inspirations of spring,
and he has no longer any appetite for life, he confesses he
is wretched when alone, and, to keep his mind from grievous
thoughts, he must have many people around him, laughing,
talking, and singing. (1)

(1) Works, ii. 57, 258.

While Charles was thus falling into years, the order of
things, of which he was the outcome and ornament, was growing
old along with him. The semi-royalty of the princes of the
blood was already a thing of the past; and when Charles VII.
was gathered to his fathers, a new king reigned in France,
who seemed every way the opposite of royal. Louis XI. had
aims that were incomprehensible, and virtues that were
inconceivable to his contemporaries. But his contemporaries
were able enough to appreciate his sordid exterior, and his
cruel and treacherous spirit. To the whole nobility of
France he was a fatal and unreasonable phenomenon. All such
courts as that of Charles at Blois, or his friend Rene's in
Provence, would soon be made impossible; interference was the
order of the day; hunting was already abolished; and who
should say what was to go next? Louis, in fact, must have
appeared to Charles primarily in the light of a kill-joy. I
take it, when missionaries land in South Sea Islands and lay
strange embargo on the simplest things in life, the islanders
will not be much more puzzled and irritated than Charles of
Orleans at the policy of the Eleventh Louis. There was one
thing, I seem to apprehend, that had always particularly
moved him; and that was, any proposal to punish a person of
his acquaintance. No matter what treason he may have made or
meddled with, an Alencon or an Armagnac was sure to find
Charles reappear from private life, and do his best to get
him pardoned. He knew them quite well. He had made rondels
with them. They were charming people in every way. There
must certainly be some mistake. Had not he himself made
anti-national treaties almost before he was out of his
nonage? And for the matter of that, had not every one else
done the like? Such are some of the thoughts by which he
might explain to himself his aversion to such extremities;
but it was on a deeper basis that the feeling probably
reposed. A man of his temper could not fail to be impressed
at the thought of disastrous revolutions in the fortunes of
those he knew. He would feel painfully the tragic contrast,
when those who had everything to make life valuable were
deprived of life itself. And it was shocking to the clemency
of his spirit, that sinners should be hurried before their
judge without a fitting interval for penitence and
satisfaction. It was this feeling which brought him at last,
a poor, purblind blue-bottle of the later autumn, into
collision with "the universal spider," Louis XI. He took up
the defence of the Duke of Brittany at Tours. But Louis was
then in no humour to hear Charles's texts and Latin
sentiments; he had his back to the wall, the future of France
was at stake; and if all the old men in the world had crossed
his path, they would have had the rough side of his tongue
like Charles of Orleans. I have found nowhere what he said,
but it seems it was monstrously to the point, and so rudely
conceived that the old duke never recovered the indignity.
He got home as far as Amboise, sickened, and died two days
after (Jan. 4, 1465), in the seventy-fourth year of his age.
And so a whiff of pungent prose stopped the issue of
melodious rondels to the end of time.


The futility of Charles's public life was of a piece
throughout. He never succeeded in any single purpose he set
before him; for his deliverance from England, after twenty-
five years of failure and at the cost of dignity and
consistency, it would be ridiculously hyperbolical to treat
as a success. During the first part of his life he was the
stalking horse of Bernard d'Armagnac; during the second, he
was the passive instrument of English diplomatists; and
before he was well entered on the third, he hastened to
become the dupe and catspaw of Burgundian treason. On each
of these occasions, a strong and not dishonourable personal
motive determined his behaviour. In 1407 and the following
years, he had his father's murder uppermost in his mind.
During his English captivity, that thought was displaced by a
more immediate desire for his own liberation. In 1440 a
sentiment of gratitude to Philip of Burgundy blinded him to
all else, and led him to break with the tradition of his
party and his own former life. He was born a great vassal,
and he conducted himself like a private gentleman. He began
life in a showy and brilliant enough fashion, by the light of
a petty personal chivalry. He was not without some tincture
of patriotism; but it was resolvable into two parts: a
preference for life among his fellow-countrymen, and a barren
point of honour. In England, he could comfort himself by the
reflection that "he had been taken while loyally doing his
devoir," without any misgiving as to his conduct in the
previous years, when he had prepared the disaster of
Agincourt by wasteful feud. This unconsciousness of the
larger interests is perhaps most happily exampled out of his
own mouth. When Alencon stood accused of betraying Normandy
into the hands of the English, Charles made a speech in his
defence, from which I have already quoted more than once.
Alencon, he said, had professed a great love and trust
towards him; "yet did he give no great proof thereof, when he
sought to betray Normandy; whereby he would have made me lose
an estate of 100,000 livres a year, and might have occasioned
the destruction of the kingdom and of all us Frenchmen."
These are the words of one, mark you, against whom Gloucester
warned the English Council because of his "great subtility
and cautelous disposition." It is not hard to excuse the
impatience of Louis XI., if such stuff was foisted on him by
way of political deliberation.

This incapacity to see things with any greatness, this
obscure and narrow view was fundamentally characteristic of
the man as well as of the epoch. It is not even so striking
in his public life, where he failed, as in his poems, where
he notably succeeded. For wherever we might expect a poet to
be unintelligent, it certainly would not be in his poetry.
And Charles is unintelligent even there. Of all authors whom
a modern may still read and read over again with pleasure, he
has perhaps the least to say. His poems seem to bear
testimony rather to the fashion of rhyming, which
distinguished the age, than to any special vocation in the
man himself. Some of them are drawing-room exercises and the
rest seem made by habit. Great writers are struck with
something in nature or society, with which they become
pregnant and longing; they are possessed with an idea, and
cannot be at peace until they have put it outside of them in
some distinct embodiment. But with Charles literature was an
object rather than a mean; he was one who loved bandying
words for its own sake; the rigidity of intricate metrical
forms stood him in lieu of precise thought; instead of
communicating truth, he observed the laws of a game; and when
he had no one to challenge at chess or rackets, he made
verses in a wager against himself. From the very idleness of
the man's mind, and not from intensity of feeling, it happens
that all his poems are more or less autobiographical. But
they form an autobiography singularly bald and uneventful.
Little is therein recorded beside sentiments. Thoughts, in
any true sense, he had none to record. And if we can gather
that he had been a prisoner in England, that he had lived in
the Orleannese, and that he hunted and went in parties of
pleasure, I believe it is about as much definite experience
as is to be found in all these five hundred pages of
autobiographical verse. Doubtless, we find here and there a
complaint on the progress of the infirmities of age.
Doubtless, he feels the great change of the year, and
distinguishes winter from spring; winter as the time of snow
and the fireside; spring as the return of grass and flowers,
the time of St. Valentine's day and a beating heart. And he
feels love after a fashion. Again and again, we learn that
Charles of Orleans is in love, and hear him ring the changes
through the whole gamut of dainty and tender sentiment. But
there is never a spark of passion; and heaven alone knows
whether there was any real woman in the matter, or the whole
thing was an exercise in fancy. If these poems were indeed
inspired by some living mistress, one would think he had
never seen, never heard, and never touched her. There is
nothing in any one of these so numerous love-songs to
indicate who or what the lady was. Was she dark or fair,
passionate or gentle like himself, witty or simple? Was it
always one woman? or are there a dozen here immortalised in
cold indistinction? The old English translator mentions gray
eyes in his version of one of the amorous rondels; so far as
I remember, he was driven by some emergency of the verse; but
in the absence of all sharp lines of character and anything
specific, we feel for the moment a sort of surprise, as
though the epithet were singularly happy and unusual, or as
though we had made our escape from cloudland into something
tangible and sure. The measure of Charles's indifference to
all that now preoccupies and excites a poet, is best given by
a positive example. If, besides the coming of spring, any
one external circumstance may be said to have struck his
imagination, it was the despatch of FOURRIERS, while on a
journey, to prepare the night's lodging. This seems to be
his favourite image; it reappears like the upas-tree in the
early work of Coleridge: we may judge with what childish eyes
he looked upon the world, if one of the sights which most
impressed him was that of a man going to order dinner.

Although they are not inspired by any deeper motive than the
common run of contemporaneous drawing-room verses, those of
Charles of Orleans are executed with inimitable lightness and
delicacy of touch. They deal with floating and colourless
sentiments, and the writer is never greatly moved, but he
seems always genuine. He makes no attempt to set off thin
conceptions with a multiplicity of phrases. His ballades are
generally thin and scanty of import; for the ballade
presented too large a canvas, and he was preoccupied by
technical requirements. But in the rondel he has put himself
before all competitors by a happy knack and a prevailing
distinction of manner. He is very much more of a duke in his
verses than in his absurd and inconsequential career as a
statesman; and how he shows himself a duke is precisely by
the absence of all pretension, turgidity, or emphasis. He
turns verses, as he would have come into the king's presence,
with a quiet accomplishment of grace.

Theodore de Banville, the youngest poet of a famous
generation now nearly extinct, and himself a sure and
finished artist, knocked off, in his happiest vein, a few
experiments in imitation of Charles of Orleans. I would
recommend these modern rondels to all who care about the old
duke, not only because they are delightful in themselves, but
because they serve as a contrast to throw into relief the
peculiarities of their model. When de Banville revives a
forgotten form of verse - and he has already had the honour
of reviving the ballade - he does it in the spirit of a
workman choosing a good tool wherever he can find one, and
not at all in that of the dilettante, who seeks to renew
bygone forms of thought and make historic forgeries. With
the ballade this seemed natural enough; for in connection
with ballades the mind recurs to Villon, and Villon was
almost more of a modern than de Banville himself. But in the
case of the rondel, a comparison is challenged with Charles
of Orleans, and the difference between two ages and two
literatures is illustrated in a few poems of thirteen lines.
Something, certainly, has been retained of the old movement;
the refrain falls in time like a well-played bass; and the
very brevity of the thing, by hampering and restraining the
greater fecundity of the modern mind, assists the imitation.
But de Banville's poems are full of form and colour; they
smack racily of modern life, and own small kindred with the
verse of other days, when it seems as if men walked by
twilight, seeing little, and that with distracted eyes, and
instead of blood, some thin and spectral fluid circulated in
their veins. They might gird themselves for battle, make
love, eat and drink, and acquit themselves manfully in all
the external parts of life; but of the life that is within,
and those processes by which we render ourselves an
intelligent account of what we feel and do, and so represent
experience that we for the first time make it ours, they had
only a loose and troubled possession. They beheld or took
part in great events, but there was no answerable commotion
in their reflective being; and they passed throughout
turbulent epochs in a sort of ghostly quiet and abstraction.
Feeling seems to have been strangely disproportioned to the
occasion, and words were laughably trivial and scanty to set
forth the feeling even such as it was. Juvenal des Ursins
chronicles calamity after calamity, with but one comment for
them all: that "it was great pity." Perhaps, after too much
of our florid literature, we find an adventitious charm in
what is so different; and while the big drums are beaten
every day by perspiring editors over the loss of a cock-boat
or the rejection of a clause, and nothing is heard that is
not proclaimed with sound of trumpet, it is not wonderful if
we retire with pleasure into old books, and listen to authors
who speak small and clear, as if in a private conversation.
Truly this is so with Charles of Orleans. We are pleased to
find a small man without the buskin, and obvious sentiments
stated without affectation. If the sentiments are obvious,
there is all the more chance we may have experienced the
like. As we turn over the leaves, we may find ourselves in
sympathy with some one or other of these staid joys and
smiling sorrows. If we do we shall be strangely pleased, for
there is a genuine pathos in these simple words, and the
lines go with a lilt, and sing themselves to music of their


IN two books a fresh light has recently been thrown on the
character and position of Samuel Pepys. Mr. Mynors Bright
has given us a new transcription of the Diary, increasing it
in bulk by near a third, correcting many errors, and
completing our knowledge of the man in some curious and
important points. We can only regret that he has taken
liberties with the author and the public. It is no part of
the duties of the editor of an established classic to decide
what may or may not be "tedious to the reader." The book is
either an historical document or not, and in condemning Lord
Braybrooke Mr. Bright condemns himself. As for the time-
honoured phrase, "unfit for publication," without being
cynical, we may regard it as the sign of a precaution more or
less commercial; and we may think, without being sordid, that
when we purchase six huge and distressingly expensive
volumes, we are entitled to be treated rather more like
scholars and rather less like children. But Mr. Bright may
rest assured: while we complain, we are still grateful. Mr.
Wheatley, to divide our obligation, brings together, clearly
and with no lost words, a body of illustrative material.
Sometimes we might ask a little more; never, I think, less.
And as a matter of fact, a great part of Mr. Wheatley's
volume might be transferred, by a good editor of Pepys, to
the margin of the text, for it is precisely what the reader

In the light of these two books, at least, we have now to
read our author. Between them they contain all we can expect
to learn for, it may be, many years. Now, if ever we should
be able to form some notion of that unparalleled figure in
the annals of mankind - unparalleled for three good reasons:
first, because he was a man known to his contemporaries in a
halo of almost historical pomp, and to his remote descendants
with an indecent familiarity, like a tap-room comrade;
second, because he has outstripped all competitors in the art
or virtue of a conscious honesty about oneself; and, third,
because, being in many ways a very ordinary person, he has
yet placed himself before the public eye with such a fulness
and such an intimacy of detail as might be envied by a genius
like Montaigne. Not then for his own sake only, but as a
character in a unique position, endowed with a unique talent,
and shedding a unique light upon the lives of the mass of
mankind, he is surely worthy of prolonged and patient study.


That there should be such a book as Pepys's Diary is
incomparably strange. Pepys, in a corrupt and idle period,
played the man in public employments, toiling hard and
keeping his honour bright. Much of the little good that is
set down to James the Second comes by right to Pepys; and if
it were little for a king, it is much for a subordinate. To
his clear, capable head was owing somewhat of the greatness
of England on the seas. In the exploits of Hawke, Rodney, or
Nelson, this dead Mr. Pepys of the Navy Office had some
considerable share. He stood well by his business in the
appalling plague of 1666. He was loved and respected by some
of the best and wisest men in England. He was President of
the Royal Society; and when he came to die, people said of
his conduct in that solemn hour - thinking it needless to say
more - that it was answerable to the greatness of his life.
Thus he walked in dignity, guards of soldiers sometimes
attending him in his walks, subalterns bowing before his
periwig; and when he uttered his thoughts they were suitable
to his state and services. On February 8, 1668, we find him
writing to Evelyn, his mind bitterly occupied with the late
Dutch war, and some thoughts of the different story of the
repulse of the Great Armada: "Sir, you will not wonder at the
backwardness of my thanks for the present you made me, so
many days since, of the Prospect of the Medway, while the
Hollander rode master in it, when I have told you that the
sight of it hath led me to such reflections on my particular
interest, by my employment, in the reproach due to that
miscarriage, as have given me little less disquiet than he is
fancied to have who found his face in Michael Angelo's hell.
The same should serve me also in excuse for my silence in
celebrating your mastery shown in the design and draught, did
not indignation rather than courtship urge me so far to
commend them, as to wish the furniture of our House of Lords
changed from the story of '88 to that of '67 (of Evelyn's
designing), till the pravity of this were reformed to the
temper of that age, wherein God Almighty found his blessings
more operative than, I fear, he doth in ours his judgments."

This is a letter honourable to the writer, where the meaning
rather than the words is eloquent. Such was the account he
gave of himself to his contemporaries; such thoughts he chose
to utter, and in such language: giving himself out for a
grave and patriotic public servant. We turn to the same date
in the Diary by which he is known, after two centuries, to
his descendants. The entry begins in the same key with the
letter, blaming the "madness of the House of Commons" and
"the base proceedings, just the epitome of all our public
proceedings in this age, of the House of Lords;" and then,
without the least transition, this is how our diarist
proceeds: "To the Strand, to my bookseller's, and there
bought an idle, rogueish French book, L'ESCHOLLE DES FILLES,
which I have bought in plain binding, avoiding the buying of
it better bound, because I resolve, as soon as I have read
it, to burn it, that it may not stand in the list of books,
nor among them, to disgrace them, if it should be found."
Even in our day, when responsibility is so much more clearly
apprehended, the man who wrote the letter would be notable;
but what about the man, I do not say who bought a roguish
book, but who was ashamed of doing so, yet did it, and
recorded both the doing and the shame in the pages of his
daily journal?

We all, whether we write or speak, must somewhat drape
ourselves when we address our fellows; at a given moment we
apprehend our character and acts by some particular side; we
are merry with one, grave with another, as befits the nature
and demands of the relation. Pepys's letter to Evelyn would
have little in common with that other one to Mrs. Knipp which
he signed by the pseudonym of DAPPER DICKY; yet each would be
suitable to the character of his correspondent. There is no
untruth in this, for man, being a Protean animal, swiftly
shares and changes with his company and surroundings; and
these changes are the better part of his education in the
world. To strike a posture once for all, and to march
through life like a drum-major, is to be highly disagreeable
to others and a fool for oneself into the bargain. To Evelyn
and to Knipp we understand the double facing; but to whom was
he posing in the Diary, and what, in the name of
astonishment, was the nature of the pose? Had he suppressed
all mention of the book, or had he bought it, gloried in the
act, and cheerfully recorded his glorification, in either
case we should have made him out. But no; he is full of
precautions to conceal the "disgrace" of the purchase, and
yet speeds to chronicle the whole affair in pen and ink. It
is a sort of anomaly in human action, which we can exactly
parallel from another part of the Diary.

Mrs. Pepys had written a paper of her too just complaints
against her husband, and written it in plain and very pungent
English. Pepys, in an agony lest the world should come to
see it, brutally seizes and destroys the tell-tale document;
and then - you disbelieve your eyes - down goes the whole
story with unsparing truth and in the cruellest detail. It
seems he has no design but to appear respectable, and here he
keeps a private book to prove he was not. You are at first
faintly reminded of some of the vagaries of the morbid
religious diarist; but at a moment's thought the resemblance
disappears. The design of Pepys is not at all to edify; it
is not from repentance that he chronicles his peccadilloes,
for he tells us when he does repent, and, to be just to him,
there often follows some improvement. Again, the sins of the
religious diarist are of a very formal pattern, and are told
with an elaborate whine. But in Pepys you come upon good,
substantive misdemeanours; beams in his eye of which he alone
remains unconscious; healthy outbreaks of the animal nature,
and laughable subterfuges to himself that always command
belief and often engage the sympathies.

Pepys was a young man for his age, came slowly to himself in
the world, sowed his wild oats late, took late to industry,
and preserved till nearly forty the headlong gusto of a boy.
So, to come rightly at the spirit in which the Diary was
written, we must recall a class of sentiments which with most
of us are over and done before the age of twelve. In our
tender years we still preserve a freshness of surprise at our
prolonged existence; events make an impression out of all
proportion to their consequence; we are unspeakably touched
by our own past adventures, and look forward to our future
personality with sentimental interest. It was something of
this, I think, that clung to Pepys. Although not sentimental
in the abstract, he was sweetly sentimental about himself.
His own past clung about his heart, an evergreen. He was the
slave of an association. He could not pass by Islington,
where his father used to carry him to cakes and ale, but he
must light at the "King's Head" and eat and drink "for
remembrance of the old house sake." He counted it good
fortune to lie a night at Epsom to renew his old walks,
"where Mrs. Hely and I did use to walk and talk, with whom I
had the first sentiments of love and pleasure in a woman's
company, discourse and taking her by the hand, she being a
pretty woman." He goes about weighing up the ASSURANCE,
which lay near Woolwich underwater, and cries in a
parenthesis, "Poor ship, that I have been twice merry in, in
Captain Holland's time;" and after revisiting the NASEBY, now
changed into the CHARLES, he confesses "it was a great
pleasure to myself to see the ship that I began my good
fortune in." The stone that he was cut for he preserved in a
case; and to the Turners he kept alive such gratitude for
their assistance that for years, and after he had begun to
mount himself into higher zones, he continued to have that
family to dinner on the anniversary of the operation. Not
Hazlitt nor Rousseau had a more romantic passion for their
past, although at times they might express it more
romantically; and if Pepys shared with them this childish
fondness, did not Rousseau, who left behind him the
CONFESSIONS, or Hazlitt, who wrote the LIBER AMORIS, and
loaded his essays with loving personal detail, share with
Pepys in his unwearied egotism? For the two things go hand
in hand; or, to be more exact, it is the first that makes the
second either possible or pleasing.

But, to be quite in sympathy with Pepys, we must return once
more to the experience of children. I can remember to have
written, in the fly-leaf of more than one book, the date and
the place where I then was - if, for instance, I was ill in
bed or sitting in a certain garden; these were jottings for
my future self; if I should chance on such a note in after
years, I thought it would cause me a particular thrill to
recognise myself across the intervening distance. Indeed, I
might come upon them now, and not be moved one tittle - which
shows that I have comparatively failed in life, and grown
older than Samuel Pepys. For in the Diary we can find more
than one such note of perfect childish egotism; as when he
explains that his candle is going out, "which makes me write
thus slobberingly;" or as in this incredible particularity,
"To my study, where I only wrote thus much of this day's
passages to this *, and so out again;" or lastly, as here,
with more of circumstance: "I staid up till the bellman came
by with his bell under my window, AS I WAS WRITING OF THIS
VERY LINE, and cried, `Past one of the clock, and a cold,
frosty, windy morning.'" Such passages are not to be
misunderstood. The appeal to Samuel Pepys years hence is
unmistakable. He desires that dear, though unknown,
gentleman keenly to realise his predecessor; to remember why
a passage was uncleanly written; to recall (let us fancy,
with a sigh) the tones of the bellman, the chill of the
early, windy morning, and the very line his own romantic self
was scribing at the moment. The man, you will perceive, was
making reminiscences - a sort of pleasure by ricochet, which
comforts many in distress, and turns some others into
sentimental libertines: and the whole book, if you will but
look at it in that way, is seen to be a work of art to
Pepys's own address.

Here, then, we have the key to that remarkable attitude
preserved by him throughout his Diary, to that unflinching -
I had almost said, that unintelligent - sincerity which makes
it a miracle among human books. He was not unconscious of
his errors - far from it; he was often startled into shame,
often reformed, often made and broke his vows of change. But
whether he did ill or well, he was still his own unequalled
self; still that entrancing EGO of whom alone he cared to
write; and still sure of his own affectionate indulgence,
when the parts should be changed, and the Writer come to read
what he had written. Whatever he did, or said, or thought,
or suffered, it was still a trait of Pepys, a character of
his career; and as, to himself, he was more interesting than
Moses or than Alexander, so all should be faithfully set
down. I have called his Diary a work of art. Now when the
artist has found something, word or deed, exactly proper to a
favourite character in play or novel, he will neither
suppress nor diminish it, though the remark be silly or the
act mean. The hesitation of Hamlet, the credulity of
Othello, the baseness of Emma Bovary, or the irregularities
of Mr. Swiveller, caused neither disappointment nor disgust
to their creators. And so with Pepys and his adored
protagonist: adored not blindly, but with trenchant insight
and enduring, human toleration. I have gone over and over
the greater part of the Diary; and the points where, to the
most suspicious scrutiny, he has seemed not perfectly
sincere, are so few, so doubtful, and so petty, that I am
ashamed to name them. It may be said that we all of us write
such a diary in airy characters upon our brain; but I fear
there is a distinction to be made; I fear that as we render
to our consciousness an account of our daily fortunes and
behaviour, we too often weave a tissue of romantic
compliments and dull excuses; and even if Pepys were the ass
and cowardly that men call him, we must take rank as sillier
and more cowardly than he. The bald truth about oneself,
what we are all too timid to admit when we are not too dull
to see it, that was what he saw clearly and set down

It is improbable that the Diary can have been carried on in
the same single spirit in which it was begun. Pepys was not
such an ass, but he must have perceived, as he went on, the
extraordinary nature of the work he was producing. He was a
great reader, and he knew what other books were like. It
must, at least, have crossed his mind that some one might
ultimately decipher the manuscript, and he himself, with all
his pains and pleasures, be resuscitated in some later day;
and the thought, although discouraged, must have warmed his
heart. He was not such an ass, besides, but he must have
been conscious of the deadly explosives, the gun-cotton and
the giant powder, he was hoarding in his drawer. Let some
contemporary light upon the journal, and Pepys was plunged
for ever in social and political disgrace. We can trace the
growth of his terrors by two facts. In 1660, while the Diary
was still in its youth, he tells about it, as a matter of
course, to a lieutenant in the navy; but in 1669, when it was
already near an end, he could have bitten his tongue out, as
the saying is, because he had let slip his secret to one so
grave and friendly as Sir William Coventry. And from two
other facts I think we may infer that he had entertained,
even if he had not acquiesced in, the thought of a far-
distant publicity. The first is of capital importance: the
Diary was not destroyed. The second - that he took unusual
precautions to confound the cipher in "rogueish" passages -
proves, beyond question, that he was thinking of some other
reader besides himself. Perhaps while his friends were
admiring the "greatness of his behaviour" at the approach of
death, he may have had a twinkling hope of immortality. MENS
CUJUSQUE IS EST QUISQUE, said his chosen motto; and, as he
had stamped his mind with every crook and foible in the pages
of the Diary, he might feel that what he left behind him was
indeed himself. There is perhaps no other instance so
remarkable of the desire of man for publicity and an enduring
name. The greatness of his life was open, yet he longed to
communicate its smallness also; and, while contemporaries
bowed before him, he must buttonhole posterity with the news
that his periwig was once alive with nits. But this thought,
although I cannot doubt he had it, was neither his first nor
his deepest; it did not colour one word that he wrote; and
the Diary, for as long as he kept it, remained what it was
when he began, a private pleasure for himself. It was his
bosom secret; it added a zest to all his pleasures; he lived
in and for it, and might well write these solemn words, when
he closed that confidant for ever: "And so I betake myself to
that course which is almost as much as to see myself go into
the grave; for which, and all the discomforts that will
accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me."


Pepys spent part of a certain winter Sunday, when he had
taken physic, composing "a song in praise of a liberal genius
(such as I take my own to be) to all studies and pleasures."
The song was unsuccessful, but the Diary is, in a sense, the
very song that he was seeking; and his portrait by Hales, so
admirably reproduced in Mynors Bright's edition, is a
confirmation of the Diary. Hales, it would appear, had known
his business; and though he put his sitter to a deal of
trouble, almost breaking his neck "to have the portrait full
of shadows," and draping him in an Indian gown hired
expressly for the purpose, he was preoccupied about no merely
picturesque effects, but to portray the essence of the man.
Whether we read the picture by the Diary or the Diary by the
picture, we shall at least agree that Hales was among the
number of those who can "surprise the manners in the face."
Here we have a mouth pouting, moist with desires; eyes
greedy, protuberant, and yet apt for weeping too; a nose
great alike in character and dimensions; and altogether a
most fleshly, melting countenance. The face is attractive by
its promise of reciprocity. I have used the word GREEDY, but
the reader must not suppose that he can change it for that
closely kindred one of HUNGRY, for there is here no
aspiration, no waiting for better things, but an animal joy
in all that comes. It could never be the face of an artist;
it is the face of a VIVEUR - kindly, pleased and pleasing,
protected from excess and upheld in contentment by the
shifting versatility of his desires. For a single desire is
more rightly to be called a lust; but there is health in a
variety, where one may balance and control another.

The whole world, town or country, was to Pepys a garden of
Armida. Wherever he went, his steps were winged with the
most eager expectation; whatever he did, it was done with the
most lively pleasure. An insatiable curiosity in all the
shows of the world and all the secrets of knowledge, filled
him brimful of the longing to travel, and supported him in
the toils of study. Rome was the dream of his life; he was
never happier than when he read or talked of the Eternal
City. When he was in Holland, he was "with child" to see any
strange thing. Meeting some friends and singing with them in
a palace near the Hague, his pen fails him to express his
passion of delight, "the more so because in a heaven of
pleasure and in a strange country." He must go to see all
famous executions. He must needs visit the body of a
murdered man, defaced "with a broad wound," he says, "that
makes my hand now shake to write of it." He learned to
dance, and was "like to make a dancer." He learned to sing,
and walked about Gray's Inn Fields "humming to myself (which
is now my constant practice) the trillo." He learned to play
the lute, the flute, the flageolet, and the theorbo, and it
was not the fault of his intention if he did not learn the
harpsichord or the spinet. He learned to compose songs, and
burned to give forth "a scheme and theory of music not yet
ever made in the world." When he heard "a fellow whistle
like a bird exceeding well," he promised to return another
day and give an angel for a lesson in the art. Once, he
writes, "I took the Bezan back with me, and with a brave gale
and tide reached up that night to the Hope, taking great
pleasure in learning the seamen's manner of singing when they
sound the depths." If he found himself rusty in his Latin
grammar, he must fall to it like a schoolboy. He was a
member of Harrington's Club till its dissolution, and of the
Royal Society before it had received the name. Boyle's
HYDROSTATICS was "of infinite delight" to him, walking in
Barnes Elms. We find him comparing Bible concordances, a
captious judge of sermons, deep in Descartes and Aristotle.
We find him, in a single year, studying timber and the
measurement of timber; tar and oil, hemp, and the process of
preparing cordage; mathematics and accounting; the hull and
the rigging of ships from a model; and "looking and improving
himself of the (naval) stores with" - hark to the fellow! -
"great delight." His familiar spirit of delight was not the
same with Shelley's; but how true it was to him through life!
He is only copying something, and behold, he "takes great
pleasure to rule the lines, and have the capital words wrote
with red ink;" he has only had his coal-cellar emptied and
cleaned, and behold, "it do please him exceedingly." A hog's
harslett is "a piece of meat he loves." He cannot ride home
in my Lord Sandwich's coach, but he must exclaim, with
breathless gusto, "his noble, rich coach." When he is bound
for a supper party, he anticipates a "glut of pleasure."
When he has a new watch, "to see my childishness," says he,
"I could not forbear carrying it in my hand and seeing what
o'clock it was an hundred times." To go to Vauxhall, he
says, and "to hear the nightingales and other birds, hear
fiddles, and there a harp and here a Jew's trump, and here
laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty
divertising." And the nightingales, I take it, were
particularly dear to him; and it was again "with great
pleasure that he paused to hear them as he walked to
Woolwich, while the fog was rising and the April sun broke

He must always be doing something agreeable, and, by
preference, two agreeable things at once. In his house he
had a box of carpenter's tools, two dogs, an eagle, a canary,
and a blackbird that whistled tunes, lest, even in that full
life, he should chance upon an empty moment. If he had to
wait for a dish of poached eggs, he must put in the time by
playing on the flageolet; if a sermon were dull, he must read
in the book of Tobit or divert his mind with sly advances on
the nearest women. When he walked, it must be with a book in
his pocket to beguile the way in case the nightingales were
silent; and even along the streets of London, with so many
pretty faces to be spied for and dignitaries to be saluted,
his trail was marked by little debts "for wine, pictures,
etc.," the true headmark of a life intolerant of any joyless
passage. He had a kind of idealism in pleasure; like the
princess in the fairy story, he was conscious of a rose-leaf
out of place. Dearly as he loved to talk, he could not enjoy
nor shine in a conversation when he thought himself
unsuitably dressed. Dearly as he loved eating, he "knew not
how to eat alone;" pleasure for him must heighten pleasure;
and the eye and ear must be flattered like the palate ere he
avow himself content. He had no zest in a good dinner when
it fell to be eaten "in a bad street and in a periwig-maker's
house;" and a collation was spoiled for him by indifferent
music. His body was indefatigable, doing him yeoman's
service in this breathless chase of pleasures. On April 11,
1662, he mentions that he went to bed "weary, WHICH I SELDOM
AM;" and already over thirty, he would sit up all night
cheerfully to see a comet. But it is never pleasure that
exhausts the pleasure-seeker; for in that career, as in all
others, it is failure that kills. The man who enjoys so
wholly and bears so impatiently the slightest widowhood from
joy, is just the man to lose a night's rest over some paltry
question of his right to fiddle on the leads, or to be "vexed
to the blood" by a solecism in his wife's attire; and we find
in consequence that he was always peevish when he was hungry,
and that his head "aked mightily" after a dispute. But
nothing could divert him from his aim in life; his remedy in
care was the same as his delight in prosperity; it was with
pleasure, and with pleasure only, that he sought to drive out
sorrow; and, whether he was jealous of his wife or skulking
from a bailiff, he would equally take refuge in the theatre.
There, if the house be full and the company noble, if the
songs be tunable, the actors perfect, and the play diverting,
this odd hero of the secret Diary, this private self-adorer,
will speedily be healed of his distresses.

Equally pleased with a watch, a coach, a piece of meat, a
tune upon the fiddle, or a fact in hydrostatics, Pepys was
pleased yet more by the beauty, the worth, the mirth, or the
mere scenic attitude in life of his fellow-creatures. He
shows himself throughout a sterling humanist. Indeed, he who
loves himself, not in idle vanity, but with a plenitude of
knowledge, is the best equipped of all to love his
neighbours. And perhaps it is in this sense that charity may
be most properly said to begin at home. It does not matter
what quality a person has: Pepys can appreciate and love him
for it. He "fills his eyes" with the beauty of Lady
Castlemaine; indeed, he may be said to dote upon the thought
of her for years; if a woman be good-looking and not painted,
he will walk miles to have another sight of her; and even
when a lady by a mischance spat upon his clothes, he was
immediately consoled when he had observed that she was
pretty. But, on the other hand, he is delighted to see Mrs.
Pett upon her knees, and speaks thus of his Aunt James: "a
poor, religious, well-meaning, good soul, talking of nothing
but God Almighty, and that with so much innocence that
mightily pleased me." He is taken with Pen's merriment and
loose songs, but not less taken with the sterling worth of
Coventry. He is jolly with a drunken sailor, but listens
with interest and patience, as he rides the Essex roads, to
the story of a Quaker's spiritual trials and convictions. He
lends a critical ear to the discourse of kings and royal
dukes. He spends an evening at Vauxhall with "Killigrew and
young Newport - loose company," says he, "but worth a man's
being in for once, to know the nature of it, and their manner
of talk and lives." And when a rag-boy lights him home, he
examines him about his business and other ways of livelihood
for destitute children. This is almost half-way to the
beginning of philanthropy; had it only been the fashion, as
it is at present, Pepys had perhaps been a man famous for
good deeds. And it is through this quality that he rises, at
times, superior to his surprising egotism; his interest in
the love affairs of others is, indeed, impersonal; he is
filled with concern for my Lady Castlemaine, whom he only
knows by sight, shares in her very jealousies, joys with her
in her successes; and it is not untrue, however strange it
seems in his abrupt presentment, that he loved his maid Jane
because she was in love with his man Tom.

Let us hear him, for once, at length: "So the women and W.
Hewer and I walked upon the Downes, where a flock of sheep
was; and the most pleasant and innocent sight that ever I saw
in my life. We found a shepherd and his little boy reading,
far from any houses or sight of people, the Bible to him; so
I made the boy read to me, which he did with the forced tone
that children do usually read, that was mighty pretty; and
then I did give him something, and went to the father, and
talked with him. He did content himself mightily in my
liking his boy's reading, and did bless God for him, the most
like one of the old patriarchs that ever I saw in my life,
and it brought those thoughts of the old age of the world in
my mind for two or three days after. We took notice of his
woolen knit stockings of two colours mixed, and of his shoes
shod with iron, both at the toe and heels, and with great
nails in the soles of his feet, which was mighty pretty; and
taking notice of them, 'Why,' says the poor man, 'the downes,
you see, are full of stones, and we are faine to shoe
ourselves thus; and these,' says he, 'will make the stones
fly till they ring before me.' I did give the poor man
something, for which he was mighty thankful, and I tried to
cast stones with his horne crooke. He values his dog
mightily, that would turn a sheep any way which he would have
him, when he goes to fold them; told me there was about
eighteen score sheep in his flock, and that he hath four
shillings a week the year round for keeping of them; and Mrs.
Turner, in the common fields here, did gather one of the
prettiest nosegays that ever I saw in my life."

And so the story rambles on to the end of that day's
pleasuring; with cups of milk, and glowworms, and people
walking at sundown with their wives and children, and all the
way home Pepys still dreaming "of the old age of the world"
and the early innocence of man. This was how he walked
through life, his eyes and ears wide open, and his hand, you
will observe, not shut; and thus he observed the lives, the
speech, and the manners of his fellow-men, with prose
fidelity of detail and yet a lingering glamour of romance.

It was "two or three days after" that he extended this
passage in the pages of his journal, and the style has thus
the benefit of some reflection. It is generally supposed
that, as a writer, Pepys must rank at the bottom of the scale
of merit. But a style which is indefatigably lively,
telling, and picturesque through six large volumes of
everyday experience, which deals with the whole matter of a
life, and yet is rarely wearisome, which condescends to the
most fastidious particulars, and yet sweeps all away in the
forthright current of the narrative, - such a style may be
ungrammatical, it may be inelegant, it may be one tissue of
mistakes, but it can never be devoid of merit. The first and
the true function of the writer has been thoroughly performed
throughout; and though the manner of his utterance may be
childishly awkward, the matter has been transformed and
assimilated by his unfeigned interest and delight. The gusto
of the man speaks out fierily after all these years. For the
difference between Pepys and Shelley, to return to that half-
whimsical approximation, is one of quality but not one of
degree; in his sphere, Pepys felt as keenly, and his is the
true prose of poetry - prose because the spirit of the man
was narrow and earthly, but poetry because he was delightedly
alive. Hence, in such a passage as this about the Epsom
shepherd, the result upon the reader's mind is entire
conviction and unmingled pleasure. So, you feel, the thing
fell out, not otherwise; and you would no more change it than
you would change a sublimity of Shakespeare's, a homely touch
of Bunyan's, or a favoured reminiscence of your own.


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