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Saint-Simon and the Court of Louis XIV Hardcover – 18 Jul 2001

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 444 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (18 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226473201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226473208
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,257,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is a professor at the College de France and a member of the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. He is the author of numerous books, including "Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error"; "The Mind and Method of the Historian"; and "The Beggar and the Professor," the latter published by the University of Chicago Press. Jean-Francois Fitou is the deputy prefect of Langon, France. Arthur Goldhammer is an award-winning translator who has translated books by Georges Duby, Jacques Le Goff, and Jean Starobinski."

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is only for readers who know the memoirs of Saint-Simon in advance! It does not contain the actual narrative of Saint-Simon describing the events at the court of Louis XIV. It is more a scientific analysis of the memoires.

The memoires themselfe comprise approx. 1500 pages, and I thought this would be a summary of th most interesting aspects. It is not!
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two books in One 15 Aug. 2001
By Gary McCollim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The French title for this book is translated "Saint-Simon and the Court System." Neither title is correct. Le Roy Ladurie has written two books. The first six chapters is a discussion of social hierarchy as interpreted by the duc de Saint-Simon looking at the court of Louis XIV. The last two chapters are a history of the Regency (1715-23). The first chapters contain no narrative history except for a biography of Saint-Simon and the last two contain no social analysis but are a discussion of the political history of the Regency.
To understand much of Le Roy Ladurie's books, the reader should know that the French education system for potential university students emphasizes on exams something called "explication de texte." The student is given a quote by someone (a politician or writer) and maybe a date. The student is expected in an essay to identify the person making the quote and that person's importance, the importance of the quote, and how it relates to history or literature or philosophy or whatever in order to demonstrate the student's knowledge and education. This book like many of Le Roy Ladurie's books is an extended explication de texte. The text in this case is thousands of pages of the memoirs of Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon (1675-1755).
Saint-Simon lived at the court of Louis XIV centering on Versailles starting in 1691 until the king's death in 1715. Then, when his friend the duc d'Orléans became Regent for the five-year-old Louis XV, Saint-Simon had an insider's view of court politics until his friend's death in 1723. Shortly thereafter Saint-Simon was told to leave the court. He was a has-been at age 48 or, more precisely, a never-was. His most important job had been as Ambassador to Spain to negotiate a marriage between Louis XV and a Spanish princess, a marriage that never took place. Some fifteen years after leaving court Saint-Simon began writing his memoirs.
Saint-Simon was an aristocratic prig, a puritanical gossip who believed that, as a duke and a peer of Frence, his class of people deserved the highest honors and positions within French politics after the royal family and its relatives. He described people of lesser social origin as vile nobodies, people from nowhere, and people who did not deserve their positions. He refused to believe that talent could or should allow people to rise in society. He dismissed immorality and corruption, believed illegitimate children were immoral because they were the products of immorality, detested the Jesuits, and despised Louis XIV because the king never granted Saint-Simon his due. The king in one of only three conversations he had with the little duke told Saint-Simon that he had to learn to hold his tongue. Louis XIV could not abide people who chattered incessantly, criticized others openly, or talked about people behind their backs. The king would never pick someone for a position who had so little self-control. Le Roy Ladurie does not mention this story.
Nor does Le Roy Ladurie mention that there exists another source for the end of Louis XIV's reign, the Journal of the Marquis de Dangeau who kept a daily record of events at court from 1684 until his death in 1719. Saint-Simon began his preparations for writing his memoirs by annotating Dangeau's journal, especially anytime the marquis mentions someone. The little duke would then write out as much as he could remember about that person. Although Dangeau has never been published in English, Saint-Simon has had several editions, all of them abridged. The best French editions of his work are thousands of pages long with annotations to explain events and identify people or Saint-Simon's unusual vocabulary. The little duke's style is said to have influenced Proust with its niggling details and loving idiosyncratic descriptions.
Saint-Simon's memoirs are filled with the names of over 10,000 people. They are like an extended phone book with long descriptions of this person or that while the plot takes a back seat. Saint-Simon was an intellectual aristocrat who knew lots of people and, like the Bourbons, he learned nothing and forgot nothing. His memoirs are his revenge for every slight, real or imagined. Yet, in some ways they are the only published source for a lot of the history of this forgotten period of French history. Le Roy Ladurie, however, ignores the history of France from 1691 until 1715 and then gives us eighty pages of political history for the Regency.
Le Roy Ladurie is mesmerized by Saint-Simon's discussion of cabals at court in 1709. He wrote an article on this section of the memoirs over 25 years ago. He repeated his analysis in a series of lectures at Johns Hopkins twenty years ago. Simply stated by 1709 according to Saint-Simon, Louis XIV's court had three groupings: the king's courtiers, his son's courtiers, and his adult grandson's courtiers. Yet, like Saint-Simon, Le Roy Ladurie goes into overtime explaining this person's relation to that one, and how the whole mess worked. The fact that people gathered around the heir to the throne or the heir's heir is not news. It was normal behavior in a monarchical system. Le Roy Ladurie's mistake is to think that the snapshot given in 1709 has an existence that extended into the Regency. Thus, these groups seem like political parties with a life of their own.
Louis XIV had the misfortune to survive both his son who died in 1711 and his grandson who died in 1712. In addition, some of the major personalities in these factions also died. Yet, Le Roy Ladurie goes on about this cabal and that having to be placated by the Regent with no evidence from Saint-Simon to support the claim that these groups maintained any cohesion after 1709 much less sfter the deaths of their leaders.
This book is filled with typos as well as mistakes by the author. For example, he discusses the first known writing of Saint-Simon coming from the death of Louis XIV's daughter-in-law in 1689, except that she died in 1690. He has people living for years after they had died, repeats in the text what he has said in the footnotes previously. I gave this book three stars because it has some value but it is not an exciting read except for those of us who have an interest in this period of French history, one that was recently called "The Black Hole of French History" because so little research or writing has been done on it. In that sense, Le Roy Ladurie has made a significant contribution.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gossip and Intrigue abound in Louie's court 31 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gossip and intrigue abound in this brilliant new book on the Court of Louis XIV. Leroy Ladurie is simply one of the smartest historians around. He looks at the Sun King's multi-layered and busy court through the lens of the Duke of Saint-Simon (1675-1755), a courtier and phenomenal chronicler of court life who left thousands of pages describing the intrigues, personalities, activities and gossip of life at Versailles. The result is a fascinating portrait of life under Louis XIV, a life driven by hierarchy, rank, and blood. Great book about obsessive, ruthless social climbing at its worst and best.
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