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Saturday, 7 November 2020

Saturday Rave: Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux. Historiettes.

 Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux (1619 - 1692) was born into a moderately prosperous Protestant family in France. His father had him trained as a lawyer, and then wangled him a job, but Gédéon decided he'd rather get an income through marriage to his cousin Elisabeth de Rambouillet.

This introduced him to rather higher society, and this gave him scope for his great relish and talent for gossip. He was soon privy to all sorts of first-hand tittle-tattle about France's great men, from the king downwards, and he used it in his series of mini-biographies of the (according to Gédéon not-so) great and good of the times.

He seems to have had great fun, and at the same time it seems that his sources were very largely accurate.

Gédéon, in his own endearing style, converted to Catholicism in 1685. Had virtue claimed him? Or was it because as a Catholic he managed to get hold of a pension of 2,000 livres which paid off his debts?

Here's a translation of the opening of Gédéon's Historiettes. It's on the subject of Henry IV of France.

If this prince had been born king of France, and a peaceful king, probably he would not have been a great personage; he would have been drowned in pleasures, since, in spite of all he went through, he did not, to follow his pleasures, abandon the most important matters. After the battle of Coutras, instead of pursuing his advantages, he went to play with the Countess de Guiche, and brought her the flags he had won. During the 4th siege of Amiens, he ran after Madame de Beaufort, without worrying about the cardinal of Austria, from Archduke Albert, who was approaching to try to help the place. He was neither too liberal nor too grateful. He never praised others, and boasted like a Gascon. As a reward, we have never seen a prince so human, nor who loved his people more.

If only there'd been a Gédéon Tallemant de Réaux in every country and age!

Word To Use Today: gossip. This word comes from the Old English godsibb, godparents. From there it came to mean familiar friends, especially those helping a woman in childbirth.

The original French text can be found HERE.

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