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4 Social and Personal Values
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Social Structure, Class, Ethics

The desire to defend and protect the family on all fronts explains the obsessive fear of mésalliance and the amount of energy spent maintaining the barriers, one could almost say fortifications, separating those within from those without. Diefendorf's study documents concern for the protection of the lineage, not only in parlementaire or municipal circles but in the Tiers Livre of Rabelais, where Gargantua sympathizes with parents who had expected to have descendants inheriting the character of their fathers and mothers no less than their belongings. She demonstrates the importance of the idea of inherited virtue to the justification of a hierarchical society. It could be modified to serve the aims of the upper nobility, the robe but, whatever the specific context, the argument showed both an awareness of the hierarchical nature of society and a desire to defend—if possible improve—one's own position in that society.[19]

Paradoxically perhaps, the barriers to membership, which applied to property and legal status, did not result in social isolation of the family as well. Parlementaires participated in networks that involved a wide variety of people, although there was bound to be less natural fraternizing between social strata in the city than in the household of a country gentleman like Gilles de Gouberville.[20] What George Huppert calls "the map of power in the pays " was not native ground to the essentially urban parlementaire, even when he was a seigneur .

Values concerning family are thus as much social as personal and involve assumptions about class. Few tangles are harder for the historian to unravel than the matter of robin nobility, beyond the formal and legal ascriptions of Loyseau and the manuals. Even those who, like Franklin Ford, consider that they eventually blended into the same privileged order with the old


nobility of the sword, cannot ignore the distinctions so brilliantly satirized by Molière in the seventeenth century. In our period, the self-conscious effort of the officers to acquire noble status was very conspicuous. I concur in Huppert's opinion that robins themselves were not at all confused about their separate identity nor were others often fooled, yet the frantic pursuit of nobility and manufacture of false genealogies proceeded apace. The difficulty lies in assigning them a class status understandable in twentieth-century terms.`

Whereas in sixteenth-century society race (class) was allegedly established by nature, it was easily identifiable through signes extérieurs that made the differences visible to all members of society. The signs allowed individuals to be seen in their appropriate place and to be treated according to their quality and merit. The result, Arlette Jouanna explains, is justice distributive —justice that is "proportional," that makes hierarchy recognizable and also more solid. This is bonne et vraie equality. Our modern sense of equality, in which human beings are regarded as interchangeable, is properly applied only to persons in the same category, according to Louis Le Roy, Claude Expilly, and David Rivault de Fleurance, among others Jouanna cites in her study of social order. She comments, "the words 'inequality' and 'equality' are used in a sense diametrically opposed to their use in our day." The idea of race , class, thus becomes a bond between society and nature, that fosters a sense of stability and security, rooted in the structure of the world.

In the course of the sixteenth-century upheavals, the nobility felt that its traditional place as the highest class was seriously threatened. Military service and skills, with the concomitant virtue, valor, were no longer supreme. Changes in the nature of warfare figured in this shift but the most significant factors were claims to nobility made by the robins and the ever-increasing dependence of the kings on them. Louis Le Caron, in the First Book of his Pandectes (1587) places "nobles of the sword" and "nobles of the law" on the same level. Claude Expilly describes both groups as "gentlemen." Jacques de La Guesle goes even further. In his famous Remonstrances (ceremonial speeches at the opening of Parlement) of 1611 he proclaimed that social status was hereditary, and that "Justice" should be accorded the first place in the hierarchy. The gentlemen of the sword reacted violently: for them it was inconceivable that skills acquired in schools, ones exercised seated indoors, could be compared to the courage and valor acquired and tested in battle. Occasionally sharp exchanges of insults erupted, even in the presence of the king. Henri IV tried to calm Villeroy and Sully


in such an episode by assuring them that he valued them equally as "good and useful servants."

The reciprocal méfiance , expressed in a spate of polemical pamphlets, spilled over into the historiographical controversy concerning the respective roles and contributions of the Gauls and the Franks to the French amalgam. According to one school of thought (la thèse germaniste ), the noblesse de l'épée had inherited the superiority that the free, warlike Franks held over the cultivated, peace-loving Gallo-Romans. The "myth of the [Frankish] conquest" became a useful weapon against the robins . In contrast, moderate jurist-historians like Pasquier and Du Haillan repudiated the notion of ancient ethnic rivalries persisting to their own time and insisted on the unity of the nation in which the barbarous aspects of the Frankish element had been softened, tamed by contact and intermarriage with the civilized Gauls. Jouanna comments, "To defend 'the civilization of the Gauls,' and assert that it had a beneficial influence on the Franks . . . was to recognize indirectly the worth of the culture of the robe or at least the limits of the warrior ideal."[21] Generally speaking, the more sophisticated spokesmen of the robe, while welcoming the perquisites and rewards of ennoblement, retained their own values and found those who abandoned them in the pursuit of noble titles ridiculous, as we see in opinions expressed by André Guillart, the de Thou, Pasquier, Loisel, and Harlay.[22]

If nobility was a complex, elusive matter, mobility was obvious and quite straightforward. Several excellent local studies have recently demonstrated the emergence of an urban elite in sixteenth-century French cities, small like Châteaudun, and larger, dominating a region, like Amiens or Dijon. Huppert summarizes their findings. From a prosperous bourgeois status to that of noble homme , the process in the sixteenth century usually took three generations, he points out, adding, "the entire life cycle of this social process is pretty much limited to a period beginning in the late fifteenth century and ending early in the seventeenth century. After that we are faced with a more rigid society." In Beauvais, Goubert draws attention to the fact that the merchant bourgeoisie of the city and the magistrates of the


baillage were so far from agreed on their grievances by 1614 that they presented two separate cahiers to the Estates General. In especially populous and prosperous areas, like Burgundy, the gentry of the leading city was recruited "not only from among the city's own bourgeoisie, but also from the leading families of the other Burgundian towns. The most successful merchant families of Châlons, Autun, Saulieu, Beaune, Mâcon—and even of small places like Nuits—have Dijon in sight as their long-range objective. One can follow their patient climb through local offices in presidial and baillage until they finally show up in the Parlement at Dijon."[23]

Wealth was plainly an essential ingredient in the formation of this urban elite of which the parlementaires constituted such an important part, but wealth only of desirable kinds, that is land, offices, and rentes . In sharp contrast, "Marchandise inspired horror. . . . The typical gentry family remains wealthy without touching commerce or industrial investment." Yet, though necessary, even the most "noble" kinds of wealth by themselves could not provide a sufficient basis for the desired status. Conversely, some men who remained poor because they chose to "devote themselves to higher things" were admired. Huppert cites L'Hôpital as an example, but he stood apart from the parlementaire mainstream and was generally atypical. Adherence to the traditions of the court was usually the sine qua non for inclusion on the parlementaire roster of honor.[24]

The conclusion of a letter of advice from Pasquier to his son is a dignified statement of this plain-living high-thinking ethic:

I wish you to be avaricious, but of a noble avarice, avaricious of your honor and not of money. The ancients placed the Temple of Honor adjacent to the Temple of Virtue, to teach us that the latter leads to the former. I wish to see you exercising your office in this way, and the rest of your fate I leave in the hand of God, to whom you should turn in the assurance that He will never desert those whose hearts are pure and devoted.[25]

L'Estoile's conviction that love of money was the root of evil is one of the dominant themes of the Mémoires-Journaux . Greed is found in all classes, but in the upper echelons it combines with presumption, causing them to overreach themselves: "they never have enough." This is his explanation of the triumph of venality in the sovereign courts. The financial policy of Henri III, manipulating religion—and superstition—in the masses so as to


soften them up for further financial exploitation was the ultimate manifestation of evil, comprising the degradation of the king and the omnipotence of greed. Expressions of bitterness proliferated in the financial squeeze at the end of Pierre's life.

When one of L'Estoile's sons lost out to a partisan , that is, a commercial manipulator of the royal financial administration, in the competition for an office in the administration of the gabelle , the father writes, "I was much annoyed . . . but when I hear on all sides that to get anywhere in this world one must be a crook, my regret is lessened, because I would prefer to see my son spend his life reading and writing belles lettres than robbing people." He rejoices that none of his children shows any inclination "toward this temptation of the times [to worship money] in which those are most admired who make a virtue of vice. There are no gods so great in this miserable century as Aurin and Argentin; everyone adores them, but especially partisans , officers of the gabelle , tax farmers . . . who resemble a man who was asked if he had seen God when he attended mass and replied, 'Yes, and the chalice too, which is worth more.'" In this passage, written a few months before he died, L'Estoile cites Saint Augustine, speaking of the worship of the pagans, "whose gods were Silver, who then begot Gold."[26]

The ambiguities and contradictions of parlementaire attitudes toward wealth—scorn of commerce, from which they had themselves emerged; la ruée vers les offices (although these became sources of added expense rather than sources of income); maintenance of uneconomic values and avoidance of bourgeois entrepreneurship—all are disconcerting for those who wish to fit early modern France into a Marxist schema, but for the understanding of parlementaire mentalité , and indeed of certain French attitudes down to our own time, their significance cannot be overlooked.

Attitudes toward poverty were also inconsistent and at times might appear hypocritical. The conception of honorable poverty, of some poor as "deserving" objects who imposed the duty of charity upon their fellow Christians, had been inherited from earlier generations. Institutional responsibility, historically vested in the church, began to be secularized and vested in local institutions in our period. In Paris, the institutionalization of municipal responsibility (as distinct from that of the Hôtel-Dieu) dates from the creation of the Bureau Général des Pauvres by François I in 1544. Predictably, among its directors magistrates who were also members of the Bureau de Ville figured prominently. As Howard Solomon reminds us, during the civil wars, two new and distinct attitudes began to be expressed


by affluent and educated Parisians, one of which undermined the effectiveness of the Bureau de Ville while the other made its task become more "disciplinary" and less "charitable." All members of society had assigned roles to play: "The individual ceased to be a private person when he was invested with his regalia of office or his corporate robes. He became instead monsieur le médecin or monsieur le parlementaire . . . . His exterior garments were . . . affirmation of his station. . . . The more visible the distinctions between various social groups, the greater the proof of society's viability." In early modern France, Christ's statement that "The poor always ye have with you" is "not only an observation, but an injunction," remarks Solomon in his study of the role of Théophraste Renaudot in the establishment of public welfare. An attempt to eliminate or "reform" poverty was to violate God's scheme and also to prevent the poor from fulfilling their destined role and was, finally, to usurp the individual's responsibility to exercise Christian charity toward his less fortunate brothers. "Instead of reform, one isolated and identified the poor, as one did the lawyer, the duke, the physician, so that they could better perform their appointed social role." Some Parisians who reasoned this way withheld their tax from the Bureau de Ville and incurred fines for violating the prohibition against private charity.[27]

In the same decades of increasing social unrest and urban turmoil, fear of the poor as a threat to law and order tended to outweigh concern for the "virtuous" poor. And if disaffection with the status quo led the poor to heresy as well as violence, they were thought to be sources of "contagion," both physically and spiritually. The result was a "hardening of prescribed patterns of behavior," which for the poor meant the multiplication of repressive measures; eviction of non-native beggars, imprisonment and forced labor as well as physical punishment in the case of Parisians. In certain conditions, like the plague of 1596, they could be hanged without due process.[28] Thus had unfortunate fellow Christians, deserving generosity, been transformed into the "dangerous classes."

As the century progressed, the robin upper crust left its bourgeois origins


further behind, which affected the relations of the parlementaire elite with the lower echelons of the robe. At the same time robin attitudes toward law and order hardened, straining their relation with the lower classes of society generally. Moreover, intrafamily relations seem to have been evolving in a more personal direction, so that family and foyer functioned more as a refuge than in earlier decades. These changes are understandable in the turbulent conditions of civil war and regicide. All the more striking, therefore, is the unchanged reiteration of the old moral values into the next century. At least in formal expressions of the "conventional wisdom," the admired virtues and condemned vices of the last sixteenth-century generation, that of Achille de Harlay and Guillaume Du Vair, were identical with those of Christophe de Thou, who consciously held those of Thibault Baillet and Claude de Seyssel. Of course, practice often deviated from theory and nobody's "old days" were as pure as nostalgia pictures them, rhetorical uniformity masking change. Nevertheless, affirmation of the old ideals in the seventeenth century, for instance in La Roche-Flavin's Treize Livres des Parlements de France (1617), an influential manual for generations, is impressive testimony of the vitality of the old values and their tenacity through a century of upheaval.

The grouping of virtues to be cultivated and corresponding vices to be avoided by parlementaires constituted a well-developed work ethic. Even more than the bankers and businessmen of fourteenth-century Italy who had pioneered capitalism, the French sixteenth-century parlementaires constituted an indisputable refutation of the argument that the so-called Protestant work ethic necessarily depends on Protestantism. Indeed, in contrast to Italy, a Protestant option actually existed in France, beginning with the 1550s. But the mainstream parlementaires explicitly rejected this option, while embracing so-called Protestant values. They aimed for self-esteem, and then the respect of others, and believed, Mical Schneider points out, that one's reputation had to be "earned."[29] The compulsion to prove oneself, if not virtuous at least as striving for virtue, is reminiscent of Leon-Battista Alberti and Benjamin Franklin, as is the obligation to set an example.

This didactic objective explains the forms in which the moral values were presented, either as a set of rules for behavior cast largely in negative terms, or as idealized portraits of the perfect magistrate, comparable to the better known "mirror of princes" literature. La Roche-Flavin's book VIII, where the aspiring parlementaire could find a full set of Thou Shalt Nots, is a good example of the former. The upright judge must not accept gifts, nor lend


himself to the influence of powerful people; must not fraternize with those who come before the bench, must not solicit legal business nor become a party to any commercial dealings. He must never reveal information obtained in the course of professional activity nor take advantage of it personally. He should always risk incivility or embarrassment for himself rather than sacrifice any principle (droiture ) and be faithful to the fraternity of the court and its traditions. By following these precepts the magistrate achieves professional probity, which he matches in his private life through sobriété et dignité , qualities he earns by avoiding idleness, excess of all kinds, and temptations, especially voluptés , and by never making exceptions for himself that involve disloyalty or irresponsibility.

The same values surface in positive form in an anonymous Essai sur l'idée du parfait magistrat: the good judge is entirely devoted to justice and to public service, is indefatigable, untainted by any form of corruption or scandal, lives simply, never wasting time or money, behaves with consistent prudence and propriety, like Roman senators of the idealized republican era. Roman too is the courage he will display in speaking up for truth and justice when it would be safer, easier, and more profitable to follow the crowd. His is the voice of reason, opposed to both emotion and force, that chooses peace over war—except when the nation's fate is at stake. Even his leisure is an inspiration to others; he does not gamble, hunts only in moderation, does not "indulge in lewd amusements like attendance at the theater," and his conversation always deals with "elevated subjects."[30]

More interesting than these wooden abstractions are the actual embodiments of parlementaire values as their contemporaries themselves describe them. In "Pasquier, ou le Dialogue des Avocats du Parlement de Paris," Antoine Loisel lists a large number of lawyers by name, judging them frankly by the ideal, starting with the historic models of previous centuries and encompassing his own predecessors (our early and transitional generations), his contemporaries (the crisis generation) and his youngest professional colleagues (last generation) through the reign of Henri IV. The dialogue takes place on three consecutive Sundays in 1602; the role of Socrates is assigned to Étienne Pasquier, Loisel's much admired colleague and close friend, center of the "scholarly Pléiade." Like the historical Pasquier, Loisel was among the ardently loyal parlementaires whose family and property suffered under the League.[31]


If Pasquier served as a model for succeeding generations, he had revered models of his own. One was Jean Jouvenal des Ursins, avocat du roi during the Burgundian crisis in the midfifteenth century. He skillfully maneuvered the Burgundians out of Auxerre, "without a single person being injured, captured or victimized by looters; he rescued the king from the clutches of the Duke of Burgundy . . . in short, all by himself, in one week, he accomplished more than 10,000 men of war." Huppert brings out the significance of Pasquier's comment on "the only robin who dared to champion the cause of peace":

The simple fact that Pasquier allows Master Juvenal several pages . . . while the battle of Agincourt does not quite take up a single sentence in the same essay, shows that Pasquier exercises a selectivity which is dictated not only by the availability of reliable sources—these were available in both cases—but also by a philosophical perspective in which battles are unimportant and virtuous magistrates are heroes.[32]

This point of view is familiar from the dispatches of André Guillart (though the Machiavellian turn of mind is lacking in Pasquier). Another fifteenth-century parlementaire frequently cited as a model—by Michel de L'Hôpital, according to Loisel—was premier président Pierre de La Vacquerie: his adherence to the highest standards of professional virtue and constitutional loyalty led him to oppose the crown. He died "full of honor but impoverished," in striking contrast to others whose compliance had earned them royal gratitude expressed in large monetary gifts.[33]

Not surprisingly, most of the admired models lived in the "good old days." Although the initial decline of the court's standards occurred during the Avignon papacy—as we have noted, ardent Gallicans like Pasquier and Loisel could never resist an opportunity to underline the evils of the papacy—the parlementaires of the Hundred Years War qeriod still exhibited a high degree of professional probity and esprit de corps. Not until the sixteenth century did the catastrophic fall in standards occur, through the practice of venality and the abandonment of the old ethic. Taking pride in the fact that in early generations no lawyer in the Paris Parlement had ever been known to be corrupt, Loisel-Pasquier enjoins the young members of the profession in 1602: "Remember and take pains to preserve and pass on to your successors the honor our ancients procured for you, of integrity in


handling [your cases], taking nothing away, holding nothing back [or doing anything] false in any respect."

Among the deplorable results of the decline in standards and the prevalence of greed was the fragmentation of the court into factions. The tendency was toward a split between younger members, who were also richer, and older members. The former scorned the latter, neglecting to observe the forms, such as wearing the prescribed costume—"especially those [parlementaires] who had not first been members of the bar—saying that the older and more conservative ones were beneath them." Loisel-Pasquier adds disapprovingly, "They also do not order their time properly."[34]

Yet despite the fading out of the old esprit de corps, there were some sixteenth-century robins who stood out as worthy of inclusion in the pantheon. Among these were parlementaires who had dared to speak boldly against the Concordat, in the case of avocat Jean Bouchard, "so virtuously that he was imprisoned in the Louvre"; François de Monthelon, le plus modéré de mon temps ; and even Brisson, who, though weak in character, was nevertheless the martyr of the profession. Loisel-Pasquier pays special tribute to the elder Matthieu Chartier, "when he was too old to go to the Palais, the Palais came to him . . . on account of his wisdom and long experience, and the virtue and integrity of his life. . . . They say he put 100 francs into the poor box every month."[35]

Several prominent gens du roi who have a significant place in our story earn Loisel's detailed praise. Noël Brulart, both as a "simple avocat," and especially as procureur général, "exercised his office with such integrity, caution, and authority and made so great a mark [in our memory] that he serves and will serve as an example and patron to all his successors, particularly in his habit of arriving early in the morning at the Palais, going to each chamber to make sure it was doing its duty. If he found some [who were not where they should have been] he gave them such a look that the mere sight of his grave face made them [return to their duty]."

And it seems that he was rewarded by God's blessing on his family, not that he left great property (for I've learned that his office consumed it all) but in that all his children . . . have advanced to the highest offices and benefices of this kingdom, the eldest a canon of Paris, abbot of three abbeys, conseiller in Parlement and then maître des requêtes; the second, premier président in the Parlement of Dijon; and the third, secretary of state.


We could hardly find a clearer statement of the kind of reward to be expected for faithful adherence to the old ethic. Loisel also praises Baptiste Du Mesnil, "whom I took for my patron and the mirror [to which I held up my own actions]. . . . He made such a mark [as avocat du roi] that he is always mentioned when the best qualities of that office are discussed." Pybrac figures in the admired circle, and, in the youngest group so does Jacques Faye, "a great statesman as he showed in Poland [where he was chief counselor to Henri d'Anjou (Henri III) in 1573], as président of the Parlement of Tours, and in all the missions he discharged [for Henri IV] in the last phase of the wars, during which he died, to the great regret of all that he did not live to see the happy outcome that he and all good Frenchmen desired."[36]

Loisel understandably has a good deal to say about Pierre (I) Séguier and Christophe de Thou, comparing their styles and careers and concluding, "In sum, both were very great personages, both as lawyers and as présidents, as is now clearly proven by the careers of their posterity," which Loisel again spells out. He does not overlook the fact that both had bypassed or skipped some of the steps that were technically required nor that they had "bent the rules" on some occasions but excuses these slips because of their ability, their experience at the bar, and their lifelong familiarity with the court. The reader is a bit uneasy about Loisel's justification when he is more severe with others and condemns them, for less. Intimacy with the Séguier and the de Thou may have inclined him to indulgence.[37]

L'Estoile, who had no personal contact with them but also admires both, especially de Thou, draws up a balance sheet. His epitaph of Séguier contains a considerable component of acid:

He used his influence to procure an office in the chancellory for one of his sons "although [the son] was notoriously swayed by the crowd and given to oppressing the people [if it was to his advantage], excusing himself by his love for his children. . . . He married four daughters very advantageously in terms of property—having no other thought in mind. Aside from these offices, he left an estate of 200,000 in money, income from rentes and movable possessions, a remarkable thing for a man who knew nothing but the tric trac of the Palais. . . . Although he was worldly and a


great hanger-on of the court if ever there was one, he was a good justice, not severe and extremely merciful, while catering to les grands and shifting with the times, to the point of apologizing for his own past acts [ego petrus peccator ] till they resounded from one end of the quartier to the other.

He is much more lenient with de Thou:

Regretted by all . . . eminently worthy of his charge . . . the first and last [occupant] of the Palais. Nevertheless some people accused him of ambition and frivolity (which were his nature), or of avarice and misuse of his office (which was pure calumny) but it is very difficult to please everyone in such a position.[38]

The fictional Pasquier of Loisel's dialogue separates the good lawyers from the bad, making a picture resembling the Last Judgment in the tympana of Burgundian churches, except that the rewards and punishments are not represented. Virtue is its own reward. Inclusion in the parlementaire Pantheon is presumably sufficient. Loisel concludes his advice to the youngest generation, "Cultivate virtue, even if it is often accompanied by misfortune (in the opinion of the vulgar) for the circumstances will be deemed honorable when your innocence and upright life are recognized by all, especially by God, who is the one true judge of our actions."[39]

Loisel's prescription for the model avocat du roi is interesting in its strong emphasis on the virtues of the praticien as opposed to the theoretical légiste , and in its illustration of the points made by Salmon concerning the evolution from rhetoric to legal science and pragmatism at the end of the century. Loisel wants the avocat du roi to have a thorough knowledge of all the various categories of "the rights of the crown," of the genealogies of all the ranking families in the kingdom as well as of the royal family, and of French history,

especially that of the last race of our kings much more than [that of] the Greeks and the Romans, and above all, that he should have spent years at the bar, managing ordinary civil cases, and that he be a good praticien .

And when he prepares public remonstrances, that he not spend time learning by heart long endless speeches, stuffed with Greek and Latin quotations (as little appropriate as in the pulpit, or the classroom) but rather that he take pains to spell out and remonstrate the errors made in the past Parlement by lawyers and procureurs ; and when he is pleading an ordinary case, that he summarize clearly what has been said by both sides, in order


to clear up the cloudy aspects and thus bring out truth and equity, which will ease the burden of the court and enable it to give a prompt decision. . . .

In sum, I desire of my avocat the contrary of what Cicero required of his orator, that is, eloquence above all, and secondarily some knowledge of the law. I say just the opposite, that he must first of all be knowledgeable in the law and in its practice, and then of mediocre eloquence, more dialectician than master of rhetoric, and more a man of business and of judgment than of great and long speeches .[40]

Despite differences in temperament, talent, and reputation between L'Estoile and Pasquier—the former suspicious, defensive, easily brouillé , secretive, keeping a "low profile" in public matters, obsessed with his miscellaneous collections; the latter, center of concentric circles of friends and admirers that included the leaders of literature and law on a national scale, active in the royalist cause at every turn—they nevertheless had common values and admired the same people. L'Estoile's Mémoires-Journaux provide striking and extensive illustration of the adherence of the robin mainstream to the opinions expressed in Loisel's dialogue. Though not a member of the privileged Pléiade nor a systematic historian, political theorist, or philosopher, L'Estoile expresses judgments identical with those of Pasquier and his colleagues, logically and coherently articulated, in virtually every entry. He clearly contrasts virtues—loyalty to the crown, the law, and especially to the traditions of the Parlement, the Gallican church, and civic duty; and on the personal level, piety, honor, courage (tempered with prudence), self-discipline, modesty, appropriateness of behavior to one's station, including a sense of noblesse oblige and compassion for those less fortunate—with their opposite vices. The latter are all rooted in the fundamental sins of presumption and avarice, from superficial vices, such as ostentation and extravagance, through dishonesty, corruption, and abuse of trust to the worst vices of betrayal of honor, of country, and of God. The Mémoires-Journaux are a collection of "sermons in stones," that is, observations drawn from the author's everyday experience. If there is any organizing principle in the potpourri, we might equate it with Cicero's O tempora! O mores! for the chief moral of L'Estoile's observations is that the times are "out of joint" and everything "upside down." The commonest manifestations are sensationalism, debauchery, financial corruption, aban-


donment of standards, and exploitation of popular credulity and superstition in the name of religion.

The extravagant and—to old-fashioned eyes—debauched behavior of the court, while much less offensive than under Henri III, was still a matter of reproach for L'Estoile in the reign of Henri IV. He describes the Mardi Gras season of 1605:

During the St-Germain fair, which the king visited regularly, an infinite number of murders and other excesses were committed. . . . Pages, lackeys, students, and soldiers . . . fighting, both indoors and out, in small organized battles, without anyone being able (or willing) to control it. One lackey cut both ears off a student at the fair and put them in his pocket, whereupon the students rioted, throwing themselves on the lackeys, wounding and killing many of them.

Satires on the evils of the times continued to be published, though here again, in reduced number. Les Hermaphrodites , described by L'Estoile as assez bien fait , was selling for two crowns at the Palais, though it was worth only about ten sous in his opinion:

This little libel, under the name of this imaginary isle, exposed the impious and vicious behavior of the [royal] court, proving clearly that France is now the home and refuge of every kind of vice, volupté , and disrespect, whereas she used to be an honorable school and seminary of virtue. The king wished to see it and had it read to him, and even though he found it a bit too free and bold, he was glad to know the name of the author, which was Artus Thomas, whom he did not wish to be prosecuted, because he said it would violate his conscience to harass a man for telling the truth.

An enormous number of executions took place in these years, many as punishment for bizarre crimes. The Parisian public flocked in great numbers to these as a form of entertainment, another sign of the times. In the month of May 1606, only two entries in the Mémoires-Journaux record anything else, and those two recount banishments, of the Irish from Paris ("experts in the arts of deception and robbery above all others . . . in that profession, which consists of doing nothing and sponging off others . . . and skilled at fathering children") and of the Jesuits from Venice.[41]

Generally skeptical about superstition, L'Estoile occasionally seems inclined to wonder whether there might not be something to it. When Charles de Gontaut, sieur de Biron, duke, peer, and marshal of France, was executed for treason in July 1602, a story circulated that a magician ("who was in


frequent communication with the Devil") had warned him sometime earlier to beware lest a man from Dijon kill him by a blow from behind. Biron mocked this advice and said he had many friends in Dijon. "Even so, they say that the executioner who struck off his head from behind was from Dijon." More characteristic is L'Estoile's reaction to an almanac printed in Lyon, called Le Grand Moisonneur , which was the sensation of Paris in June 1605—"there was no good mother's son who did not try to procure it because of the marvels it contained, having predicted the death of the pope, and others, at the time they took place in fact. . . . What a poor science that makes jokes out of the misfortunes of its betters![42]

No ambivalence whatever colors L'Estoile's attitude toward exploitation of religious sentiment for ulterior motives: the Mémoires-Journaux record a great many false miracles. Most leave a reader saddened because the victims are poor and naive, but some are really funny. One concerns a rich merchant "but feeble of wit and superstitious to the point of idolatry," who entered a church late in the day and lighted a candle in front of a statue of the Virgin. A priest asked him to leave because it was so late and at last "thought up a scheme to get rid of him, which was to cover his head with a white linen cloth and appear to the worshiper, who then cried in ecstasy, 'Ah sweet Virgin, Our Lady!' and rushed from the church to tell everybody that the Virgin had appeared to him. The poor people, who are very gullible in such matters, began to hail it as a miracle until the priest [told them the truth] thus turning the appearance of the Virgin into a joke."

The beloved Henri IV did not escape reproach, even after his conversion had been generally accepted: in 1608 as the king was returning from Fontainebleau to Paris, he encountered the religious procession habitual at Pentecost. He dismounted and knelt in the street to worship the Host, which produced murmurs of admiration from the crowd "and is of no small advantage to a king whose people, as regards the religion of their prince, judge more by outward show than by anything else."

Catholics and Protestants were equally guilty of ignoring the real Christian message in their preoccupation with blackening one another: in the Lenten sermons of 1609, "beaucoup de bruit et peu de fruit . The Jesuits are hot in pursuit of heresy . . . but cool in regard to the vices, corruptions and abominations that abound. . . . In Charenton [the Huguenots] do no better. Ignoring their own vices (as great as those hereabouts) they declaim against the abuses and superstitions of the Roman Church, make war on the pope, calling him Antichrist (as Catholics do Calvin) . . . tearing down rather than


edifying, in a manner unworthy of the modesty and seriousness suitable for a preacher in the pulpit. Thus both sides show more sectarian animosity than zeal for God's glory and peace in His house."[43]

Greed bred every kind of corruption, L'Estoile thought. It was particularly offensive in the administration of justice: "little crooks, the least guilty, are fined the most, while the great robbers get off for almost nothing." In 1607 premier président Achille de Harlay felt it necessary to devote a special mercuriale to the prevalence of corruption in the Parlement itself. He said that he was not presently naming the culprits, but if they continued he would do so and prosecute them to the full rigor of the ordinances (this would mean forfeiture of their offices). He said, "It was a cause of great shame for men who had spent all night handling cards and dice to have the effrontery to come in the morning and sit in judgment on men whose lives and property [they held] in the same hands. . . . He also spoke severely to conseillers who betrayed the dignity of their profession by running around the city sword in hand, meriting the name of street people rather than counselors. . . . He exhorted each one to carry out his duty, but in vain . . . because vice and corruption have long since gained the upper hand over virtue and integrity, even in [Parlement], where the greater number are dishonored by their vices." The price of office was escalating dramatically in these years, "so that one can see it rise not from year to year, or even from month to month, but from week to week and from day to day, in a vile and infamous prostitution the like of which has never been seen. In short, the world today is divided between those who consume and those who are consumed, and the result is (as they say) 'It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.' "[44]

Proverbs are always useful to moralists. L'Estoile's favorite is Telle vie, telle fin . It was appropriate when a procureur ("homme de bien, chose rare en un procureur") who would never accept fees from those whom he knew to be poor, made a good end, or when courtiers ("said to have died of gallantry, which means excess with women") died after taking an aphrodisiac instead of the Holy Eucharist. What a happy surprise when a bad man has a good death, and how gratifying to make a direct comparison between a dying man who regrets leaving the world and his possessions and pleasures, and one who abandons such concerns and dies craignant Dieu .[45]


If not in practice at least in theory, most parlementaire value judgments were clear-cut: work was good, idleness was bad; simplicity was good, ostentation was bad, but on some subjects one might have ambivalent, or even contradictory feelings. Parlementaires might seek the status and perquisites of nobility but scorn those who possessed it as "clinging to empty honors and ridiculous titles," "good only for their elegant fleeces"; they were highly skilled at building fortunes, at creating ingenious devices for passing them on to their heirs, but despised businessmen and financiers. Ambition was particularly slippery. It was admirable to rise in the hierarchy, if one's place was honestly earned, and it was natural to assume the external signs that went with high office. To advance the family position by advantageous marriages, to strive for a place near the king—these were laudable ambitions, and those who fulfilled them were rewarded by admiration in addition to their success. And yet the good parlementaire was required to exercise restraint. An "appropriate" life-style was reserved rather than attention-getting, with greater emphasis on the "higher" than on material things. Parlementaires cited with approval Socrates' metaphor of Silenus, the god who hid under a repulsive exterior. Any effort to impress others met with disapproval.

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