Sunday, August 15, 2010

Undocumented history rant

Wild speculation, as good as any rag sheet anywhere.
Finding primary sources seems to be not the easiest thing to do for Louis XV and his ladies. 
There must be some way to find better information about these people and this age.  
I can find nothing much about Imbert de Saint-Amand, Arthur Léon, baron, 1834-1900. 
Madame du Pompadour died in 1776. Imbert, who maybe actually have been Arthur Leon, and I can't say that using a pen name really strikes as the most respectable behavior for a historian, but in any case, he was born seventy years after Pompadour died. His writings are laced with the sentiments of the nineteen century. His writing echos some of the worst propaganda that was put out about her and her king during the reign of Louis XV. Such writings were scandalous at the time of their creation and meant to libel and defame the targets of their songs and prose. 
I suspect he wrote sensational books for the purpose of notoriety and financial gain. He'd hardly have said that Madame du Pompadour was an elegant, intelligent human being who virtually ran France for some time, arranged international treaties, sponsored the enlightenment, and nurtured a gentle and kind many who doubted the doctrine and spectacle of his father. 
Louis XV became king at the age of five. I have read translated letters of his, from a source that did his research in the Bibliothque Nationale of France that show him as a king who, even after he'd won battles, made arrangements for the wounded on both sides. 
On his death, he was a man who came to the conclusion that he had small pox, even though everyone feared to tell him. He is said to have reqretted exposing Madame de Barry, who had never had small pox. From his own letters, when he struggled to have this last mistress accepted, he wrote of trust and gave his reasons simply that she made him happy. 
I understand that one of the jobs of an historian is to look at primary sources, to look at events and facts, the words of those who have preceded us and to understand them as seen through the eyes of our own times and experiences. 
Louis XV likely read Voltaire. Could have known David Hume... I'd be surprised if he had not read John Locke, Livy, Herodotus, perhaps Sappho?  Shakespeare.. do you really believe that if you were Louis XV, with the wealth of the world, every brilliant mind flocking to your court and a love of theater you had not seen every play of Shakespeare produced or read? I wonder what he thought of Henry IV, one of my favorites.  "And once more into the fray, on this Saint Crispen's Day!" I don't know that he understood English, though he'd probably be a fool not to have at least the basics.. and I see nothing in any of the reputable sources I've found to suggest that he was a fool.  All sources though agree that he was rich and a translator won't have been too expensive. There had to be quite a few decent speakers of English in the Palace of Versailles, a palace which could hold twenty thousand nobles...
It is said that du Pompadour had a library over over three thousand books. 
We have a man and a woman in Louis XV and de Pompadour who had access to the history of Western civilization, the music, ballet, poetry, theater, art of a myriad varieties...
A man who finds love and kindness to be paramount values, who will go against four hundred years of tradition to have the love and companionship he desires is neither weak nor incapable of making decisions. A man who can quietly chose humanist values, while holding stable what was probably the most powerful country in Europe, at that time, is not weak. To seek out and listen to sound advice without regard to the advisors genitalia is a sign of intelligence. He did not love war. He did not love misery. He did not love arrogance and brutality. 
I have only begun my study of Louis XV,  de Pompadour, du Barry, Voltaire, and their whole age. They are a breath of life to me. 
Also...I found this pic of Louis XVI
Does  he not seem like the poster child for arrogance? Lips drawn tight, staring down his nose...
The spellings on the site are not what I'm used to.. but it seems to be an educational site. 
So much work and study to do! Isn't it invigorating!?

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