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3 Cultural Values
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Cultural Values

Education of Parlementaires

There is no doubt that the "new learning" of the sixteenth century, that is, the revival of the classics with a new, humanistic spirit, was especially strong in the French magistracy. The evidence is abundant in the content of their libraries, in citations adorning their speeches and writings, in their patronage of humanistic scholarship as reflected in dedications. George Huppert, who has written extensively on robin intellectual pursuits, goes so far as to say, "The celebration of letters must be understood not merely as an intellectual fashion, but also as a profound cultural revolution. . . . The Renaissance in France was the creation of this class and its passport to honors."[1] With a few notable exceptions, the old aristocracy of the sword in France came late to humanist activity, and in small numbers. The powerful prelates, like Guillaume Briçonnet, who played a prominent role, were often unusually successful members of great robe families.[2]

Yet the humanist program as such was neutral in class terms and in confessional terms, as Eugene Rice points out: "Like the several varieties of Protestantism, humanism appealed to men of diverse social origins and for reasons dependent on local and temporal circumstances." While recognizing the professional relevance of training in rhetoric for young men destined to be royal counselors, administrators, and diplomats, Rice suggests that the motivating force is to be found in the need of bureaucrats—who were


"new" men, rivals of the old nobility for the seats of power—for cultural ideals distinct from those of the latter. "Legitimate preeminence in the republic of letters helped legitimize an earned preeminence in the wider republic. . . . A humanist education inculcated a self-confident dignity independent of both office and birth and helped bridge the gap between legal nobility, the reward of service, and acceptance as a gentleman."[3]

In addition to the general prevalence of humanist tastes as manifested in libraries and speeches, some royal officers at the highest level experienced a humanist education similar to the Italian, that is, instruction in Latin language and literature by a private tutor whose métier was scholarship. This was the case of the sons of Pierre Briçonnet, who were taught Latin and history by Paulo Emilio and moral philosophy by Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples in the 1520s.[4] Nevertheless, this was not common outside the endogamous circle at the top of the robe hierarchy, consisting of the Briçonnet, the Beaune, the Ganay, the Hurault, the Ruzé, and the Poncher who, as we have seen, came from the same regions of the country and had risen together in the service of the late fifteenth-century kings. In her analysis of the background and formation of the French légistes in the second half of the sixteenth century, Mical H. Schneider finds that about one-fourth of them had a humanist education in the legal sense, eleven being students of Jacques Cujas, and three of François Baudouin. But this was professional training and not "liberal education."[5]

A much larger proportion of parlementaires and members of the other sovereign courts probably attended the humanist schools that were springing up in French cities and towns because "more than the notary's skill and the savoir-faire of the local bourgeoisie" was required to prepare their careers and their "life-style founded on books and learning."[6] Freelance teachers of Latin and primary schools also existed, even in some villages, but the most important new educational institution was the municipal collège , of which lawyers were the moving spirits and organizers. On this account they were frequently in conflict with the local bishop and cathedral chapter, who suffered from the loss of their long-established monopoly of


education and looked with suspicion on the new learning as the seedbed of heresy. There were enough examples of this linkage to make the fear realistic.[7]

Huppert points out that a "radical re-orientation of habits" was involved for boys who were "sequestered" in the collèges until about seventeen years of age and then sent to law school (and who were not considered adult until they were provided with office and possibly married as well), by contrast with the older pattern, in which boys participated in adult life as early as somewhere between their seventh and their eleventh year.[8] At the collège they were conditioned to a life where everything was regimented: early rising, long hours of study, supervised religious exercises, and meals. In class they were disciplined by hours of drill, in oral recitation and written exercises, based on a series of Latin texts of graduated difficulty, and Greek was added in the fifth form. Huppert believes that reading in French was in practical terms their most important instruction because of the impressive results obtained. Boys entering illiterate would emerge ten years later "able to express themselves in elegant French, capable of writing both French and Latin with facility, with some knowledge of Greek and mathematics, and always a great deal of history and philosophy." In contrast to the study of law with a humanistic legal master, this kind of education had no direct professional bearing on the careers of the future officers, but it provided them with the general culture and manners that expressed the "new mentality" of the age.[9]

It is probably true that humanist study, especially Greek, was valued chiefly as an ornament by members of the judicial elite, although there would be exceptions, those who became—or wished they could become—true classical scholars. Elements of both approaches are to be discerned in Michel de L'Hôpital's remark, "Greek is like lace; any man gets as much of it as he can," and in the opinion of a twentieth-century authority on early modern lawyers, "The importance of Greek studies to the jurists can hardly be overestimated."[10]


For the great majority of the officer class, however, their education was pre-professional. The law schools taught Roman law, and a proficiency in the legal Latin of the glossators was an absolute prerequisite. Significantly, our spokesmen of the latter part of the century who expressed the distilled parlementaire conventional wisdom on their own profession—for example, Loisel, Loyseau, La Roche-Flavin—agree that the best education is at the Palais de Justice and that too much time spent on study of other than legal subjects is at best a waste of time and at worst a dangerous distraction. Study for its own sake, or for pleasure, is specifically frowned upon, they say; Latin orators and historians are approved, but the poets are suspect because they encourage voluptés (as Plato had maintained before La Roche-Flavin!). The same utilitarian criteria apply to travel, which should always have a useful objective. The approved places to visit are Padua and Bologna, sites of the two great Italian law schools. Even scripture should be read for devotional purposes only and not too frequently. (Apparently the study of Greek is not mentioned.) The law schools themselves do not escape criticism: their curriculum is "too theoretical" and overloaded with frills like Latin rhetoric. Instead, there should be a continuing education in customary law, from youth right on to the end of one's career.[11]

A frequent observation on an admired colleague was, "He grew up in the Palais," or "He drank in the coutume with his mother's milk," or his suffisance from mere association with older members of his parlementaire family was such that he was "admitted without the usual examination." The advanced classical education of the Briçonnet group seems to have been truly exceptional, and while they did not draw disapproval for it (at least in recorded opinions) because they were so successful professionally—and politically—they were not held up as models at the Palais, where a much more severe and strictly professional view prevailed.

Parlementaire Learning: Libraries

Among the valuable kinds of information available in the inventaires après décès in the Minutier des Notaires at the Archives Nationales, none are more precious for our purposes than the inventories of private libraries. One hundred ninety-four of these have been studied by Roger Doucet.[12]


The earliest date from the last decade of the fifteenth century and the last few were notarized in 1560. (The explosive vogue for collecting began in the 1520s.) More than half, 109, belonged to lawyers and royal officers, including twenty présidents and conseillers and thirty-five practicing lawyers at the Palais or the Châtelet. If clerics from robe families are added, the proportion becomes even greater. Only ten were libraries of grands seigneurs ; the sixteen Paris merchants among the collectors include a grocer, an innkeeper, and several in the wholesale cloth trades, as well as a bookseller affiliated with the university of Paris.

Hommes de loi who figure elsewhere in our study include Philippe Pot (309 books), Adrien Du Drac (358 books), Guillaume Bourgoing (280 books), and président Pierre Lizet (513 books and 25 manuscripts). Lizet's library is typical in that three-fourths of the contents are law books, almost equally divided between civil and customary law, but unusual in its lack of contemporary authors and in the presence of a number of texts by scientific authors such as Galen and Hippocrates, some books on alchemy, and the Cosmographie of Anneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Plus II).

In every case, the predominance of law books reinforces the overwhelmingly professional bent of parlementaire mentalité ; in some cases there is little else: 42 of the 55 books belonging to the lawyer Cousinet, 55 of the 58 books belonging to the lawyer Berruyer. About two-thirds of even the unusually comprehensive collection of 783 books belonging to Jean Le Feron were legal books of one kind or another: textbooks, collection of parlementaire arrêts and royal ordinances, regional coutumes ; the standard works of Roman and canon law together with the most influential commentaries and glosses (Le Feron's library contained about 50 of these), and the works of major "modern" jurists like Andrea Alciato, Barthélemy Chasseneuz, Guy Pape, and especially Budé. We are not surprised to find Jean Gerson and copies of the Pragmatic Sanction at hand for these ardent Gallicans, and only occasional copies of the Concordat of Bologna (we look at the rest of his collection later in the chapter).

The nonprofessional categories regularly found, in approximately this (descending numerical) order, were religious books: Bibles and manuals of devotion; works by the ancients: Cicero, Vergil, Seneca, Plutarch, Aristotle in Latin, and a few Greeks appearing toward midcentury (usually Aesop, Thucydides, and Xenophon); popular fiction like the Amadis de Gaule (but fewer works by Rabelais than we might expect); fifteenth-century Italian works by Pico, Valla, Poliziano, Castiglione, Machiavelli; history and chronicles by Froissart, Monstrelet, and especially Commynes; utilitarian scientific or technical works of astronomy, navigation, mathematics, and descrip-


tions of the new world, and a few architectural books by Vitruvius or Alberti as well. Among contemporary authors, only Erasmus and Budé figure to any extent in the first half of the century. In general, the collections reflect parlementaire adherence to two conservative traditions—Roman law and piety. A century later Guy Patin's prescription would show a broader and more "modern" taste in two respects, that is, including more books by recent authors and ones more in conformity with our own tastes: Rabelais, Montaigne, Bodin, and Charron.[13]

Doucet notes that the robe collectors were not really bibliophiles and that their books were surpassed in monetary value by the plate, jewels, and wine in their estates. I cannot agree with his conclusion, however, that the parlementaires acquired their books only because they were désireux de manifester leur luxe , for the very reason that they were not very "valuable," only very useful.[14]

Two individual collections are worth some particular comment because each contained a number of items not regularly found in parlementaire circles. One was that of Jean Le Feron, containing 783 volumes inventoried in March 1548 at the time of his wife's death. His religious books included two copies of Saint Augustine's City of God , others by the Latin fathers, and works of Luther and Melanchthon. Among the ancient and medieval philosophical authors were Boethius, Cassiodorus, William of Occam, John of Salisbury, and Otto of Freising. Spanish and Italian texts also figured in the history section, along with more than 20 chroniques and louanges of the kings of France. Ulrich von Hutton and Sebastian Brandt added a German note to his foreign group, which was richer in Greek writers as well. Contemporaries like Du Bellay and Guillaume Postel were also listed.[15]

Pierre de L'Estoile's motley collection is distinguished by its extraordinary range, some would say lack of discrimination. His phenomenal curiosity led him to acquire items merely because they were scandalous or much discussed. He enjoyed documenting the evils of the times and expatiated at length in the Mémoires-Journaux on works of which he disapproved. From the historian's viewpoint, his collection of League pamphlets and other ephemera is priceless.

Volume 4 of the Brunet edition of the Mémoires-Journaux is a printed version of Pierre's scrapbook, "Les Belles Figures et Drolleries de la Ligue."


The original has marginal comments in Pierre's own hand. Many pages in the other ten volumes also contain what he called his vanités, fadèzes , or bagatelles . Topical ephemera were indeed the principal object of his curiosity and became a virtual obsession in his later years, which he often felt obliged to justify by drawing a moral. In volumes 8-10 (1602-10) human folly and/or the degenerate nature of the times in a wide range of miscellaneous works take the place of the follies and evils of the League, which had dominated earlier volumes. They serve the same didactic purpose and also seem to have given him a melancholy satisfaction:

[October 26, 1609] Today I bought the fourth part of the Chroniques des frères mineurs , in two volumes, newly published in 4º, by the widow of G. Chaudière. This book is not only stupid and superstitious but also impious in that it revives the memory of our furies and impieties that were passed off as religion, which the king has suppressed by his edicts of pacification. If it is as entertaining as the first part, which I have (as I understand from others, having just leafed through it myself), I'll copy out some extracts as soon as I have time to rid myself of melancholy, instead of an herb bouillon. The two volumes, bound in parchment, cost me 100 sous.[16]

The voluminous quantity of broadsides and pamphlets had caused him to create a personal cataloging system:

[July 19, 1608] Today I made two packages of bagatelles that I picked up between the first of this year through the last day of June. The first contained forty-five different items, that I labeled with four "As," beginning my fourth alphabet; the second contained forty-three, labeled BBBB.

[November 15, 1608] I have given Master Abraham [L'Estoile's binder] a package, labeled DDDD, of bagatelles picked up between the first of October and St. Martin's [November 12] of this year, most of them trash and lies printed at the last [Frankfurt] fair. There are forty-one of them. I gave Abraham a ten-sou piece for his work, which included stitching into my large Register a Latin poem . . . and a letter of Fra Paolo in Italian.[17]

An entry of two days later shows how the magpie collector, the scholar, and the moraliste -critic coexisted in this Parisian robin :

Today M. Dupuy showed me, in his study, theses printed in Rome by Brother Thomasso Caraffa, dedicated to the present pope [Paul V] with the magnificent (or rather, blasphemous) eulogies and titles bestowed on him that the pope himself has suppressed, whether from shame or from fear


that it would make the heretics laugh. Only M. Gillot [one of the authors of the Satyre Ménippée ; see chapter 14] owns one, which was sent to him from Rome (this is the one Dupuy showed me, according to a memorandum in Italian Dupuy brought me on July 30 of this year, as is noted for that day in this Register). The portrait of His Holiness enthroned is a frontispiece . . . surrounded by diadems, crowns, and many mottoes and titles [devises ] so boastful and arrogant that a president of the court [de Thou] asked, "What can one say of all this, except, 'It is Antichrist.'"[18]

Both his curiosities and the intellectual exchanges they inspired were extended to include almanacs, tombeaux (epitaphs), funeral orations, a few portraits, and a large number of coins. In one of his scrapbooks, a bound folio loaned to the friend of a friend in June 1608, among the items Pierre describes as "most interesting" are a play-by-play account of the famous duel between Jarnac and La Chastagneraye, the marriage negotiations of François d'Alençon and Queen Elizabeth, and Jacques Faye's remonstrances on the Trent decrees. This sort of mélange is duplicated hundreds of times. Whether we judge these to be expressions of a mindless mania or of a catholic taste, it is only fair to note that L'Estoile felt an obligation to document the follies of the time and that they provided constant exercise for his critical faculties:

[September 10, 1608] Today I finished reading Vignier's Histoire de l'Église , which I began last August 16. Having studied it and read it carefully from beginning to end, I'm confirmed in the opinion I've always held of the falsity of the pope's claim to primacy, as a frivolous tradition and abuse of the Roman Church. This is a good book, and very useful for bringing out the truth, [the author] makes no claims on his own, he does it by producing sound and irrefutable evidence from century to century.[19]

Predictably, L'Estoile kept close track of the Frankfurt fair every year. In 1608 he acquired the catalog on October 25, "very thin on good books but with abundant trash, invectives, and injuries (of all factions) even more than before. One can say, as of everything else in these times, toujours de pis en pis ." He did a good deal of buying and selling himself, sometimes with commercial booksellers, but often with individual acquaintances. In September 1608 he sold a bunch of duplicates—la plupart bagatelles —for 30 francs, which he put aside to invest in others. Understandably, he was


interested in visiting other libraries. In October 1607 with two friends he spent an afternoon visiting the royal library where, "among other notable and rare items," were a large Ptolemy and a Hebrew Bible (handwritten and illuminated), both excellent and "truly royal." There were also many Greek manuscripts, from the hand of a leading scribe, "with magnificent and exquisite bindings, which in many cases were worth more than the contents." In 1609 he visited an aged monk of St-Germain, who had a library "quite large and beautiful, for a monk," among whose treasures was a Bible edited by François Vatable (a leading Hebrew scholar) that the monk found the best of any, although the author was considered a heretic by "our masters," and a presentation copy of de Thou's Histoire universelle . In the course of these years Pierre became something of a curiosity himself. In September 1608 the English ambassador came to see his study and his books, "about which he claimed to be very curious, nevertheless, in my opinion, he had little knowledge of books," making some pretentious observations showing that he did not know which were rarest. One of the infrequent glimpses of Pierre's sensitivity, which is not at the same time an expression of bitterness, occurs at the end of this episode: "I gave a toy herring, so beautifully made one would think it alive, to his son, very little, but whose face promised great and good things."[20]

Although bagatelles take up more space in the Mémoires-Journaux , Pierre's library included a very respectable collection of serious books, especially "modern" ones, that is, published in the sixteenth century, from Erasmus and Budé in the early decades to Jacques-Auguste de Thou's history at the end, which L'Estoile acquired volume by volume as each came out. Many citations from his relatively few classics reflect close reading and thoughtful analysis.[21]

L'Estoile's serious specialty, intellectually and bibliographically, was the literature of religious controversy, from the church fathers (texts and scholarly studies) through the polemical literature on the differences between the Greek and Latin churches; from Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin to Crespin's martyrology and works of Mornay and La Noue on the Protestant side; and, on the other, from volumes on the claims of the papacy, the Trent decrees, and the weighty histories of Bellarmine and Mariana to scurrilous


pornographic broadsides (especially numerous). It also included the writings of James I and Buchanan in the early 1600s.

His collection of writings on the struggle then raging between Venice and the papacy might well be the most complete in existence. Rare are the pages in volumes 7-10 that do not contain some allusion to the quarrel, most often in the form of works read and/or purchased. He remarks on May 19, 1607, that he has just acquired four new tracts circulated at the Frankfurt fair "concerning the matter of the pope and the Venetians, which I pick up wherever I can find any." The following month he buys a recueil newly published in Italy, which contained nineteen tracts, "for and against, which is not even a tenth of what has been printed. I have more than twice as many already, that I pick up everywhere I can. To date, I have fifty-three in all, which I have put in order and turned over to M. Abraham, for binding." His admiration for Paolo Sarpi is unbounded:

A person of holy and blameless life, in addition to his doctrine, and moreover, very zealous for the glory of God and the restoration and reformation of the church, for which he daily works, gathering every possible thing written on the subject. I promised [the friend who showed him a request from Sarpi for help in locating two rare tracts] that I would help by listing and copying everything I could find in my study.[22]

Key items in this collection are the works of Leschassier, which make explicit the coincidence of the Venetian with the Gallican cause. Opposition between the papal-ligueur and the Venetian-Gallican positions is Pierre's most dominant interest in current events and the main focus of his collection. It also provides the chief linkage between his intellectual values and those that are personal.

Parlementaire Scholarship

In the last decade of the century and the early years of the seventeenth, there was a flourishing circle of parlementaire érudits in Paris. The intellectual leadership passed to président Henri de Mesmes from Christophe de Thou, along with his library, which became a kind of club. The parlementaire historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou kept the family name in the top rank, but as the years passed the brothers Dupuy became by far the most prominent scholars. Their cabinet was frequented by the cream of the Palais, amongst whom books circulated informally. Lively discussions took


place on political and scholarly themes, with ardent Gallican sentiments and hostility to the Jesuits among their main characteristics.[23] As in the case of humanism, however, the members were intelligent amateurs rather than creative scholars. "Les Du Vair, les de Thou, les de Mesmes, les Séguier, les Harlay . . . encouragent plus à travailler qu'ils ne travaillent eux-mêmes; parmi les érudits ils sont les mécènes, les collectioneurs, les amateurs éclairés." It follows that their principal role on the creative side of scholarship was patronage, as in earlier generations. Beyond the conspicuous network of families at the top level, the patronage of many lesser officers is reflected in the dedications of scholarly works and the correspondence of men of letters.[24] Sponsorship of scholars and of the new learning might be described as the "adornment" of the new mentalité , whose basic elements were the practice of law and preservation of the family and of the family's property.

There were, of course, serious legal scholars among the parlementaires, Loisel, the de Thou, Du Vair, Le Caron among them. In addition, notable légistes often held judicial office pour la forme , or as a reward. This was true of Du Moulin, and a good many others functioned as avocats in the parlements. These were no more active in the court than Petrarch, whose "minor orders" served him as a source of income, had been in the church. In general the practitioners practiced, while legal scholars wrote theoretical works to be collected, read, discussed, and applied by their practicing colleagues. The circle centering on Étienne Pasquier and Pierre Pithou was exceptional in that serious intellectual activities extended beyond professional, legal, and historical matters to the sphere of pure literature, including poetry.[25]

Intellectual Interests of Parlementaires

Antiquity, conceived as the whole complex of ancient civilization, with Roman law as its ubiquitous ongoing embodiment, figured in the general culture of parlementaires almost as much as in their professional concerns. We have seen that Roman law was replaced by the customary law of the Paris region as le droit commun , and that boasts of the Parlement's equivalence to the Roman senate were replaced by bolder boasts of its uniqueness.


Analogously, there was a change in the evaluation of ancient civilization by érudits of the judicial class and a considerable evolution in their view of its relation to their own contemporary French civilization.

With the realization that the language, law, and institutions of the ancient world reflected temporal and geographical conditions of particular historical situations and that each age and nation produced its own expressions, thoughtful Frenchmen gradually began to see ancient civilization as a collection of historical phenomena as well as the embodiment of an ideal. Like so many facets of Renaissance thought, the roots of the development lay in the work of Lorenzo Valla. In the field of French law, Guillaume Budé blazed the trail by noting parallels between ancient and French institutions, even though Kelley—who analyzes the development of the foundations of modern historical scholarship—feels that Budé could never "quite decide (as a modern) what his relation to antiquity was, or (as a Frenchman) what it ought to be."[26] On the whole, Budé was a spokesman for French culture and stood with the "moderns" in the quarrel with the "ancients" that was just shaping up and would draw increasing attention in coming generations. In this respect Budé was a pioneer of certain attitudes that would flower much later, such as the "idea of progress." Students of the Renaissance are sometimes led into futile disputes about its "modernity" and the scholarship of the midtwentieth century has tended to emphasize rather the elements of continuity with medieval themes at the expense of such attitudes as we have seen in Budé, where the discovery of antiquity is seen chiefly as a point of "takeoff" for something new.

If Budé and other thinkers of the pre-civil war generation were ambivalent about antiquity, later in the century French intellectuals began to equate Rome chiefly with the negative aspects of contemporary Italy, in contrast to a postulated "golden age of French law" preceding the introduction of Roman law, "when judgments were simple . . . and litigation was at a minimum. This was a myth similar in function to that of the 'primitive church.'"[27] Its most complete statement was François Hotman's Anti-Tribonian , composed at the request of Michel de L'Hôpital in 1567, which Kelley considers "the most radical of all works issuing from the historical school of law" and "one of the most remarkable examples of Renaissance historicism." Antiquity looms more as a competitor than as a model. Carried to its logical extreme, this view reduces Roman law to the "creation of a particular people at a particular time in particular circumstances," whose


study offers little other than antiquarian interest. Hotman rejected many of the values shared by our parlementaires—indeed, he was hostile to them—but his original views influenced the course of legal and institutional theory for all.[28]

If admiration of idealized antiquity may be called a thesis and the anti-Romanist view its antithesis, the attitude of the French jurists of the end of the century was a ripened synthesis. Pasquier, Pithou, Loisel, Le Caron, and La Roche-Flavin could extol the Pax Romana and the senate, choosing from the Roman treasure-house materials to enrich or adorn their arguments for the superiority and uniqueness of French institutions for France—especially Parlement. It was a synthesis that leaned heavily to the modernist side, however. "Juridical nationalism," the glorification of French law and institutions, was one among several elements of a developing cultural nationalism that embraced Gallicanism and the Pléiade as well. Its particular significance for the parlementaires is that through it, their interest in the ancient world became a subsidiary aspect of their interest in history.

The impact of antiquity was stronger on parlementaire literary activities, but these were usually conventional and derivative in content as well as in form. Only a small proportion of robe authors was actively engaged in creative writing, moreover. Étienne Pasquier was notable among them. His love of poetry was a ruling passion that bound him to others, who, "although led into another career . . . did not wish to dissociate themselves from the world of poetry as a superior form of pleasure, as an intellectual exercise, as a personal expression free of all external constraint, to which the other occupation was subordinated."[29] One of those special companions was François d'Amboise, also a lawyer and, more tellingly, a fellow contributor to a collection of verse in memory of Gilles Bourdin, procureur général of Parlement, who died in 1570. Bourdin's house had been the meeting-place of literary men such as Étienne Jodelle, Philippe Desportes, François de Belleforest, Jean-Antoine de Baïf, and cultivated parlementaires. Another such friend was Claude Rebours, a physician. Pasquier dedicated to him an epigram praising his use of two gifts from Apollo, that of curing bodies with bitter medicine and souls with sweet poetry.

Pasquier's Latin verse resembles that of the lesser humanists, full of classical references in convoluted puns, where the medium constitutes most


of the message.[30] In contrast to their legal and historical works (in Pasquier's case Recherches de la France ), and to the Pléiade surrounding Ronsard and Du Bellay, the significance of the scholarly Pléiade's poetry lay chiefly in its reflection of the ancient models.

A third channel through which antiquity affected parlementaire mentalité was philosophy. There is little evidence of any serious interest or study of Plato's thought, even in the neo-Platonic form found in the fifteenth-century Italians whose works graced the shelves of parlementaire libraries. Admiration for Socrates as an upright man who died for his beliefs—and the occasional citation from Plato or Aristotle—figure rather superficially as discrete nuggets of "the wisdom of the ancients." Stoicism, on the other hand, was a serious interest of a small but influential minority, especially from the floruit of Christophe de Thou, in the 1560s, to that of Pybrac du Faur in the reign of Henri IV, and including Michel de L'Hôpital and, especially, Guillaume Du Vair.

A natural affinity existed between certain Stoic doctrines and the sagesse laïque of the highly educated parlementaire of the later generations at the end of the civil wars, states Léontine Zanta. She believes that even a reformed Catholicism was no longer a viable philosophy for liberal Catholics and politiques in an era of violent extremes, dogmatic Calvinism on the one hand and ultramontane Counter-Reformation Catholicism on the other.[31] The Stoic beliefs that especially appealed were, first, that nature and utility should be the good man's guide and, second, that "practical reason" (in contrast to "speculative" reason) enables a wise man to live according to nature, to fulfill his needs, and to avoid the worst pains and misfortunes that are often brought on by faulty attitudes. Self-control and moderation are the key virtues; since passion is at the root of vulnerability, mastery of passion is the first essential step. One can then go on to cultivate the other virtues: patience, courage, liberality (sometimes called magnanimity), and justice. Wisdom is the supreme virtue, which embraces all the rest. There are vices corresponding to the virtues. Regulating one's life in this way, policer la vie , is what Paul Mesnard ascribes to Du Vair, taking him as an exemplar of the stage of full development and Christophe de Thou's deathbed declaration as "the charter of the movement."[32]


An essential element in achieving mastery is acceptance of disagreeable realities that one cannot change; one learns to ceder à la force , rather than offer courage inutile . Applications include Christophe de Thou's handling of the conflict between the policy of the crown and that of the Parlement in the crisis years, 1561-63, and Du Vair's yielding to the League (and subsequent self-justification) in the period when opposition by an individual who had chosen to remain in Paris was suicidal. At the same time, one should "play one's expected part well (tirer la meilleure partie ), extracting as much good as possible" from the situation and keeping always in mind the inspiration of those who have dealt successfully with the adverse situation, with minimal damage. Note that this is a negative, if not pessimistic view, reminding us of Thomas More's refutation of Raphael Hythlodaye's absolutist-idealist position in the Utopia (bk. 1). It is also necessary to set priorities rationally, so that the ends to be served will not conflict with the smooth execution of the overall plan. Patrie is the highest of these ends external to the self. De Thou's rally to the Edict of January over the opposition of Parlement in the hope of avoiding civil war and Du Vair's emergence as a politique in 1593-94 are examples. In the latter case the changed circumstances, Henri IV's conversion on the one hand, and the threatened takeover of the French crown by Spain, on the other, make the risks to be taken no longer inutile .[33]

A more positive stance draws on the belief that "hope and faith should crown the edifice of virtues," in this philosophy, called le stoïcisme chrétien , or néo-stoïcisme . Inclusion of the Christian element was mandatory for individuals who were first of all Gallican Frenchmen. The linkage between philosophy and religion emerges from the conviction that "nature" and "God's plan" are confluent, in fact, identical. Description in the language of philosophy as distinct from that of religion does not involve conflict, only "translation." The initial translation leads the believer from passive acceptance to activité créatrice , the opportunity to become a collaborateur de Dieu (an interesting parallel to the contemporary Calvinist precept of "doing God's work").[34]

This synthesis of Christian and Stoic thought, especially from the 1590s into the new century, represents a shift in the relative influence of major


classical thinkers on educated French minds, specifically from the predominance of Cicero to that of Tacitus. J. H. M. Salmon traces its development:

In early sixteenth-century France Cicero seemed a perfect model to humanists. . . . Admiration for Ciceronian style was accompanied by a moralizing civic humanism and a respect for Cicero, the philosopher, as the purveyor of Greek wisdom. At the end of the century Tacitus had become a more important linguistic influence, while the ideal of the active citizen and virtuous orator had been replaced by one of Stoic fortitude and withdrawal.[35]

Budé's Institution du Prince , his advice to François I, reflected Cicero's association of rhetoric and history as the means through which to cultivate judgment and prudence. "Prudence in rhetoric was the ability to take account of the particular, and prudence in history was to understand the particularity of events and to apply to them general rules of human behavior in the interest of the public weal." Thus, says Salmon, "Budé represented the type of early French humanism that accepted authority in the prince and preached virtue in the citizen." By midcentury a number of thinkers had contributed to modifications in this view but the most influential was Ramus, who made "dialectical logic the queen of the sciences and rhetoric was reduced to a matter of technique. . . . In so doing, he changed the entire concept of the union of citizen and orator."[36]

In the turmoil of the religious wars, "the age of Tacitean scholarship was inaugurated by Justus Lipsius and Marc-Antoine Muret," and while Huguenots continued to cite Cicero and tried to adapt him to theories of resistance, scholars like Pasquier, Du Tiller, and Fauchet drew on the Germania "for the light [Tacitus] might shed on the political practices of their ancestors, the Franks, and such relevance as they might have for the sixteenth-century constitution." In Hotman's Franco-Gallia Cicero and Tacitus were "invoked in tandem." As the wars intensified, Ciceronian civic humanism was eroded by the sense of "helplessness of the individual in face of forces he could not control." As a result, perplexed citizens turned to the "tenets of Senecan neo-Stoicism . . . for the moral fortitude [that would enable them] to preserve dignity and integrity" while adopting the posture of resignation and pragmatic realism, exemplified by Du Vair, in 1593-94, the years of his anti-League activity. Thus began a revival of the


Ciceronian ideal within the Stoic ideal.[37] Prudence, "the least of the virtues," came to replace wisdom as a result of disillusionment, reciprocal exhaustion of Protestant and Catholic ideologues, and the triumph of appropriately politique compromise. Tacitus, the disillusioned critic of imperial Rome, took the place of Cicero, the republican champion of the vita activa .[38]

Yet the leading neo-Stoics were serious about politics, in practice as well as in theory. Gerhard Oestreich offers a brilliant analysis of the thought and influence of its chief exponent, Julius Lipsius. At a critical period in the religious wars in France and the Low Countries, Lipsius worked out a theory for a strong state, supported by the army but also limited by religious, moral, and legal principles. Oestreich calls this "political humanism" and contrasts it with "the arid philological erudition of contemporaries, whose links with the broad educated class became progressively weaker." It was "only in the autumn of humanism, as it were, that the fruits of the whole movement were gathered. Around 1600, especially in the France of Henri IV and the Netherlands, Stoicism became the ideology, almost the religion of educated men." (Ten editions of Lipsius' Politics were published in France between 1595 and 1613.)

Although Pierre Charron is the best known French disciple, Guillaume Du Vair, equally influenced by Lipsius, is naturally of special interest in this study. Du Vair's role in Parlement's rally to Henri IV and later in the surrender of Paris (see chapter 14) illustrates how, for Dutch thinkers and their followers, humanism adds an active ingredient to Stoicism: "Neo-Stoicism meant the moral and spiritual arming of the individual and the community." As a product of the Dutch struggle against Spain, the need of a strong, disciplined army was inevitably emphasized. Given this Netherlands context, the "constitutional" aspect was developed in a new direction in the next generation by Hugo Grotius, whom Oestreich considers the last great figure of Dutch humanism, balancing Lipsius, the first.

Another major theme of Lipsian thought, the transformation of the concept of "covenant" into that of "contract" was represented in France at the time only by Huguenots; it is easily recognized in the formulations of Bèze and the Vindiciae contra tyrannos . The neo-Stoic prudentia civiles , "a style of rule which aimed at a consolidation of state authority while employing the greatest moderation," characterized the policies of both


Henri IV and Richelieu, Oestreich believes, "especially in regard to the education of staff in all the institutions of the early modern state, through direct precepts for practical conduct."[39]

Through all the intellectual and stylistic changes of the century, the robins ' interest in history had not diminished. It influenced their political theory, as we have seen, and it surpassed all their other cultural concerns in popularity by a wide margin. Shared by the least learned and the genuine scholars, the parlementaires' view of "history" showed a considerable range of sophistication. The scholarly Pléiade constituted the highest level, of course. Thanks to Donald Kelley and George Huppert, twentieth-century readers begin to understand the contributions of Pasquier, Pithou, and their colleagues to the development of history as a discipline.[40] Beyond these historians, a much wider robe circle read history for pleasure and found it natural to make historical references and comparisons in their daily discourse and correspondence as well as in formal speeches or writing. Their level of familiarity with their own national past would probably compare well with that of twentieth-century (American) bachelors of liberal arts, except that there was then no active "debunking" movement to sharpen critical faculties toward the mythical and heroic elements.

At the outermost fringe of the wider circle, where the historical knowledge of nonintellectual robins merged with that of similar representatives of other professions, we find "popular" history. In contrast to our own times, where popular history is likely to be heavily contemporary in con-tent—often written by journalists, leaving to historical fiction the task of fueling popular interest in the past—robin popular history avoided their own times and emphasized the remote past. We can assume that certain topics were absent because they were controversial to the point that they might alienate potential readers and prove risky for the author as well. Pierre Droit de Gaillard's history, published in 1579, probably the most widely read of the popular histories, stopped with the reign of François I and included nothing later than the founding of the lecteurs royaux in 1530. Not only did it avoid mention of the civil wars "of religion," or of the troubled reign of Henri II out of which they erupted, the index had no entry for "civil war." If we read between the lines, we see that the author's frank disapproval of the tendency of les grands to disturb the status quo in the


fifteenth century was an indirect way of castigating the rival noble factions of his own time. But histoire was supposed to view the human scene sub specie aeternitatis and to elevate the reader's mind; God is known through history.

Droit de Gaillard, avocat à la cour , called history an "overflowing fountain," which was the source of all other disciplines. His title, La Vraye Methode qu'on doit tenir en la lecture de l'histoire , and even more the definitions of history in the index set the tone: "memory of the past, portrait of the virtues, messenger of antiquity, mistress of life, theater of the world, witness of the ages, true guide of bodies politic, guide to the knowledge of God, necessary even for princes, equalizer of old and young in wisdom, immortalizer of man, repudiator of vice, and mother of all virtues"—an emphatic statement indeed. Kelley considers Gaillard's view "rather naively exemplaristic," but he also credits him with digging more deeply into the medieval past than some others, including Jean Bodin.[41]

The authors cited by Gaillard include, from the ancient world, Pythagoras, Thales, Solon, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch, Cicero, and Livy; there is also Moses, prince des historiographes . Saint Augustine, Gregory of Tours, Saint Bernard, and Vincent of Beauvais are cited, as are Johannes Reuchlin and Jean Sleidan. Commynes, who was much admired for his realism, appears along with Froissart, Gaguin, and Budé, but René Choppin and François de Belleforest are the only contemporaries.[42]

Gaillard's chapters feature heroes and villains. Socrates is most frequently encountered among the former. The author calls the Delphic utterance Know Thyself "the greatest of all truths" and goes on to explain that self-knowledge arises from consideration of the immortality of the soul and of its functions; this consideration in turn, depends on history. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Plutarch also appear frequently. Machiavelli, not surprisingly, is "the source of all false and damnable counsels," yet Gaillard admires Louis XI for combining "the strength of the lion with the craft of the fox." Aside from French history, which naturally takes up the most space, the Old Testament and Rome provide the most "lessons." Ambition


and avarice figure among the main evils; they characterize the tyrant in contrast to the true king and cause nobles to form conspiracies to overthrow the "natural order" and disturb the peace. When magistrates and priests are corrupt, they disturb the state too. Corruption explains the decline of Rome from its early greatness, and also that of the primitive church. The most dangerous of all signs of corruption is the prevalence of blasphemy, which leads to divisions in religion within a single state. Blasphemers are hypocrites, pretending to be true Christians, but they are actually atheists, agents of the Devil, aiming to destroy the unity of the state, which depends on unity in religion. The index calls religion the "seul moyen de régler un peuple, fondement des républiques." All the most desirable virtues depend on religion. The familiar list overlaps with the Stoic list and, significantly, offers Marcus Aurelius as the great exemplar of temperance, a leading virtue. The task of magnanimity is one we would not expect: "défendre la religion contre les infidelles, à l'imitation de Charles Martel, Charles le Grand, Godefroy de Bouillon, Philippe Auguste, et saint Louis."

The kings of France, like the kings of Israel, have three titles, corresponding to their three functions (ch. 9): king, judge, and priest; "king, to command as a father commands his children for their good; judge, in order to render unto each his due (there being no greater human virtue, as Plato said); and priest, pour le soing qu'il doit avoir à la religion . . . qu'elle soit bien et purement conservée . . . . Nothing else can assure the prosperity of the kingdom. . . . Likewise, there is nothing that can cause as many calamities as its neglect."[43]

As Gaillard outlines the history of France (chs. 6-9), the emphasis on the true religion and its defense is striking, beginning with the piety of the Gauls, "as noted by Caesar." "The Gallic and French people of all times are most devout" and they regularly choose men of the church as their leaders. Chapter 7 is entitled "Of the piety and religion of the kings of France, from which stems their title Most Christian." The chapter consists of a series of rhetorical questions: "Did not Clovis defend the one true church against the heretics? Did not Pepin protect the church when it would have been destroyed by barbarians? Did not Philip Augustus punish blasphemers? Did not Saint Louis travel to the Holy Land on two crusades and build the Ste-Chapelle to shelter the true cross? Did not Charles VII sign the Pragmatic Sanction and thus establish the liberties of the Gallican church by which our church was reformed and restored after it had fallen from its primitive state?" Philip the Fair is excused for not crusading (as he wished)


because of troubles with England and Flanders. Boniface VIII is understandably a villain ("he entered [the Holy See] like a fox, ruled like a lion, and died like a dog; in his vanity he made the false claim that France should be subject to the papacy, ignoring the warning of Saint Bernard, if you try to wield both swords you shall lose them both!"), but Gaillard specifies that these evils cannot be attributed to all popes.[44]

Justice also receives attention, though less than religion. Together, "they establish the throne." Magistrates are necessary to the prosperity of the state and they should be appointed on the basis of merit. Président La Place wrote truly to the king that all the disorders of our time stem from the violation of this principle; Gaillard adds, "Instead, the choice is influenced by money, favor, and ambition, which are the chief evils and enemies of the public welfare." Elsewhere he comes out frankly against the sale of offices and the violation of the rules, including the age requirement. He quotes Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch—the "wise ancients"—on the superiority of age over youth. In many different contexts, Gaillard associates the study of history with virtue and good government, as did Commynes.[45]

At the end of the century, Pasquier and his fellow defenders of the Gallican tradition, believing the attack from the Counter-Reformation to be more dangerous than the earlier Protestant threat, were consciously searching for a "usable past," so as to provide a historical foundation for the legitimacy and validity of French national institutions, as distinct from those of Rome.[46] They perceived the heads of the ultramontane hydra, though sometimes in disguise: publication by the Jesuits of Guise-Lorraine claims to the throne allegedly usurped by Hugh Capet, Trent decrees aimed at destroying the power of secular rulers over the church, inflammatory propaganda denouncing Henri III voiced by ligueur curés directed by the papal legate.[47] The papal bull of 1585, however, barring the crown to the legitimate heir, was a naked challenge, the first in an escalating series that reached its climax in 1593, with the attempt to annul the Salic law and set a foreign princess on the throne.

The politique historians' response was to proclaim ever more insistently the unique, independent "genius" of France, equal in antiquity to that of Rome and superior—for the French people. From the Gauls, as described by Julius Caesar, through the Franks—between whom there was no break—


to the present, French society, institutions and culture were declared to have had an unbroken development. In the ecclesiastical sphere, Rome's aggressive machinations and French institutional autonomy were equally ancient: the Crusades had been caused by papal greed, the corruption of the French church by the example of the Avignon popes: c'est de là que nous avons appris la chicane , said Loisel. On the other side of the coin, the Gallican liberties had existed from time immemorial. On the basis of historical research, the politique parlementaire-historians were able through Charlemagne and the "translation of empire" to establish the constitution, with its salient features held together in an indissoluble equilibrium, as ancient and ongoing.[48] They had become more aware of the force of change than were the earlier generations and recognized different kinds, but the disintegration of the equilibrium and the decline of civic virtue seemed to predominate, leading to the conclusions that change was usually bad and that their own were the worst of times.

The theme of "the past we have lost," which runs through Loisel's "Dialogue des Avocats du Parlement de Paris," is elaborated by detailed judgments of well-known lawyers from the fourteenth century to Loisel's contemporaries. Although there are heart-warming exceptions, in general the trend is downward. Whereas in the good old days the Paris bar was la pépinière des dignitez and lawyers followed a code of ethics that was both personally noble and the embodiment of civic virtue, now avarice, excessive—and selfish—ambition, and shady practices are the rule. Venality is the principal cause; Pasquier-Socrates makes the point forcefully and repeatedly. Moreover, the historical Pasquier attributed it to the dire influence of Machiavelli: "le malheur de nostre siècle [est que] pour acquerir réputation d'habile homme il faut machiavellizer."[49]

Huppert's analysis of the parlementaires' method makes a determining argument for characterizing them as true historians. It is not only that they


reexamine the medieval history of France with the tools of philology and law, but that their definitions and use of sources are very different from those of antiquarians and chroniclers. Pasquier follows official records closely, with "no dramatic embellishments. When [he] needs information he cannot find in the registers of the courts, he chooses his informants carefully, noting their bias and comparing their stories with conflicting accounts . . . relying, all other things being equal, on the source closest to the event." Of particular interest to historians of the late twentieth century is the breadth of Pasquier's conception of history and the consequent variety of his sources. Huppert considers this "perhaps the most remarkable feature of Pasquier's historical method. . . . Everything is grist to his mill: an act of Parlement, a papal bull, a poem, a coin, a statue, the record of a trial, a chronicle; all authentic remains, if possible contemporary with the event in question, can supply testimony." Another unusual feature is Pasquier's presentation of his selections for emphasis, "topical," rather than strictly narrative. He is not bound to "coverage" of every possible event; rather he analyzes around a point, focusing on the relevant aspects. Huppert illustrates this technique in his summary of Pasquier's treatment of the Hundred Years War, "in three long consecutive essays . . . [that] in cutting short the chroniclers, in extracting the marrow from the bone, as his favorite Rabelais would have said, in constructing a brisk and clear narrative out of the confusion of partisan accounts . . ., with minor corrections, could still serve as an excellent introduction to this period."

The analogy of the factional conflicts, personal feuds, and civil disturbances complicated by foreign intervention that led to the disintegration of the French state in the fifteenth century, to the troubles of his own time, makes the Hundred Years War, through in-depth analysis of the root causes of the tragedy and of its seemingly miraculous "happy ending," a logical choice for one who believes that practical lessons in political wisdom can be drawn from history.[50]

If "the notion of a vital connection between cultural phenomena and the political condition of a nation . . . accounts for the constancy of Pasquier's purpose and . . . the organic form of his Recherches . . . and also for the fact that he came closer than anyone to realizing La Popelinière's ideal, as Kelley believes, we should also recognize that the all-embracing conception of "the


genius of France"—institutions, arts, language, customs—was shared by all the parlementaire historians, as was the rejection of myth, superstition, and the supernatural.[51] Pasquier's conclusions about the outcome of the Hundred Years War and especially his handling of Joan of Arc are outstanding examples of historical analysis of the past. But for balanced handling of emotion-charged events in which they were personally involved, Pasquier, de Thou, Le Caron, and Loisel, to name the outstanding examples, are even more unusual.

Another kind of drawing on history for political wisdom is to be found in Loisel's Guyenne , a series of homilies and exhortations arising out of the decisions of the special court of which he was a member, sent in 1582-83 to the chief towns of Guyenne, where widespread heresy had provoked civil disturbances. The French crown was then experimenting with a new device, the establishment of chambres mi-parties , that is courts with membership of Catholic and Protestant judges in equal numbers, to adjudicate disputes under the Edicts of Pacification.[52] Loisel finds a precedent in Roman history:

[The emperor] Vespasian, after the Gothic invasions, sent through the provinces officers called comptes to dispense justice . . . if both parties [to a dispute] were Goths, they would be judged by a Gothic officer, if Romans, by a Roman; but in the case of mixture or diversity, the court would be mi-parties , half Roman judges, half Gothic, and both were charged to dispense equal justice to all so that both sides together would be responsible for the maintenance of peace and order.[53]

That Pierre de L'Estoile shared the royalist-politique -parlementaire interpretation of history is evident from his treatment of "current events" and the way he will use a historical personage or event to draw a moral, but he is not a historian. He is, rather, a remarkably perceptive reporter of matters he knows at first hand, the Paris League above all, with a high degree of objectivity even on matters about which he had strong feelings, notably the quarrel between Venice and the papacy.

Paul Geisendorf cites the ultra-Catholic Claude Haton as a successful propagandist, who also believed everything put out by his own side, and Agrippa d'Aubigné as one who did not succeed (in persuading non-Catholics to convert) but who had greater awareness than Haton of the distinctions


between fact and propaganda. Geisendorf uses L'Estoile as one who was not taken in by the propaganda of either side:

This good Parisian bourgeois, strolling through his great city with his nose to the wind, attentive to every daily event which then had to pass through the sieve of his sound common sense, was always able to keep from falling into either extreme; spectator more than actor, he succeeded in giving us . . . a lively, varied and sensitive account of the terrible years, 1574-1611, without taking any unrealistic and exaggerated emotional stand as did most of his contemporaries.

But this did not mean that his judgments were always trustworthy, adds Geisendorf. He cites as an example of objectivity L'Estoile's condemnation of "a [Catholic] book of devotion, or according to me, superstition, called Fleurs des exemples , full of lies, whose chief use is to give the heretics something to laugh at, and they are indeed Tales of Mother Goose," and another, "of the same grain but from the other mill," which was "a new volley against the pope, fired by cannons in the Arsenal of Geneva, no less offensive than those of Rome." L'Estoile's pains to avoid being taken in occasionally led him to condemn a book falsely, while his account of local events almost always agrees with the archival sources, except in minor details.[54]

Oddly enough, the Mémoires-Journaux do not contain entries on Pasquier and Loisel as historians, nor do their works seem to have been in Pierre's library. In view of his curiosity on the one hand, and the coincidence of his values and opinions with theirs on the other, we are puzzled by the omission, Pasquier's Recherches , of which there are many editions, was circulated in manuscript before publication, but Pierre was not a member of the scholarly Pléiade. Even so, there was an inclusive edition, the last to be supervised by the author, in 1607. Loisel's "Dialogue des Avocats" was published in 1602 and La Guyenne in 1605. All of these publications fell squarely into the period of L'Estoile's greatest activity as reader, critic, and collector. Of course the most interesting of Pasquier's historical "essays," contained in letters to friends, were not available in print until much later. I would speculate that if L'Estoile had been in a position to see them, the Mémoires-Journaux would have been many pages longer.


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