This is the first publicaiton of seventy-five letters from Francois de Callieres (1645-1717) to Mare de Bailleul, Marquise d'Huxelles (1625-1712) from a manuscript in the bibliotheque Nationale de France, ms fr. 24983. The letters are in the original French. Preface Francois de Callieres's letters to the marquise d'Huxelles are here published for the first time, accompanied by a substantial introduction and explanatory notes by Laurence Pope. Ambassador Pope has established the text, deciphering and transcribing Callieres's handwriting - for which Callieres himself sometimes apologizes and which, pace Mr Pope, is not so clear as he avers - with accuracy and aplomb; and his wide knowledge of contemporary international issues as well as authors, statesmen, soldiers, and personalities has equipped him to identify virtually the entire corpus of events, people, places, and published works to which the letters allude. Writing with all the understanding of a fellow exponent of the art of diplomacy, Pope discusses the challenges Callieres faced, and the successes and half-successes he enjoyed.
His remarkable discovery and judicious use of material both by and relating to Callieres in the Fonds Renaudot, and his profitable work in the French diplomatic archives and in the collection of letters by Mme d'Huxelles held in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, further illuminate this important edition. Fleurus, Namur, Mons, Steenkerk, Neerwinden, Charleroi...French military successes in Flanders up to the end of 1693 came one upon another. In that year, Catinat won the last of his several memorable victories in Savoy and was promoted to the rank of marshal. The duc de Lorraine, at the outset of the war the only effective leader on the other side, had been dead for three years. Everywhere, French armies stood beyond the borders of 1689. All this convinced the man in the Paris street and his noble counterpart in the anterooms of Versailles that France was poised to reap political and territorial rewards commensurate with those enjoyed by Louis XIV in the previous three decades or so of his personal reign.
Alas, the victories of Steenkerk and Neerwinden, however gloriously reported, were snatched from the jaws of defeat; Catinat fell into disgrace for no better reason than courtiers' jealousy of his rise from humble origins; the activities of the privateer Jean Bart were poor consolation for the French fleet's inability to recover from its defeat off La Hougue in 1692; the British fleet entered the Mediterranean to harry French interests there; the marechal-duc de Noailles, commanding in Spain, made little headway after early promise; Louis XIV retired from personal command on the battlefield; thrust at last into the limelight, the Grand Dauphin proved to be militarily inept; the marechal-duc de Luxembourg, the finest French general of his day, died; and when Louis appointed his only remaining competent general, Vendome, to relieve Noailles, he effectively left Flanders at the mercy of his nemesis, William of Orange. William, thanks to the consonance of Dutch and English military endeavour, added power and confidence to his undoubted quality of tenacity, and became successful at last against the poorly organized Villeroy.
At the Peace of Ryswick, the French secured more than they had earned after the reverses they had suffered. Pointis's capture of the important Caribbean port of Cartagena and the success of Vendome in taking Barcelona strengthened the French hand at the last minute. As Mr Pope points out, Strasbourg was saved for France after it had initially been proposed to hand the city back to the Austrian Emperor. Moreover, Louis succeeded in retaining sufficient freedom of action to enable him to be forthright and prompt at the outset of the next crisis, the one everybody knew was imminent: that of the disputed Spanish succession. The man in the Paris street and the uninformed courtiers of Versailles, united in their belief that French interests had been betrayed at Ryswick by negotiators who limply sacrificed French conquests across the Rhine and in the Palatinate and Flanders, did not know that France had been brought to her knees, both militarily and financially.
In truth, the tactical awareness, grasp, determination, and sheer hard work of Francois de Callieres, at first in secret negotiations, and later in alliance with - and sometimes obstructed by - colleagues dispatched from Versailles to take the lead in the final series of talks, staved off even greater French concessions. In identifying Callieres as the principal architect of the eventual settlement, Saint-Simon may have slightly overstated his contribution, but it was none the less crucial. Callieres's achievement in the earlier, secret negotiations that "[settled] the preliminaries of peace" is explicitly acknowledged by Sir George Clark in what was for many years after its publication in 1934 the standard work on the period from the British perspective. (See Clark, The Later Stuarts 1660-1714, 2nd edition (1956), pp. 173-74.) Yet who was Francois de Callieres?
As Pope shows, some see him as a member of that learned class of writers and dilettantes of the second rank who flourished alongside and around the great French classical authors, people who animated salon discussions and produced collections of "bon mots" and obiter dicta and anecdotes of varying quality, thus providing one of the many contexts in which the soaring imaginations of their more illustrious peers flourished. It was that contribution to the cultural and literary life of the capital, aided by a timely piece in praise of the King, that was recognized when Callieres was elected to the Academie Francaise in place of the celebrated playwright and, more recently, opera librettist, Philippe Quinault. Whilst literary achievement, however modest, was a requirement for membership of that august body (at least in theory), not all academiciens were known principally for their writings, and Callieres's other claim to modest eminence was as a diplomat. Pope disposes neatly of the question what that word might mean in the last decade of the seventeenth century.
Acknowledging therefore, en passant, the risk of lexical anachronism, let us agree that what counts is that Callieres practised his craft with mastery, and that his published works on negotiating reveal a man who thought deeply about what he did and how he did it, possessed the skill and enthusiasm to write both interestingly and usefully about it, and left us with one treatise in particular that is still required reading. If worldly vanity were not foreign to Callieres's character, one would be tempted to say that it would be as a diplomat and negotiator that he would most have liked to be remembered; secondly as a writer on the subject; and only thirdly as a contributor to the literary abundance of the seventeenth century. As a writer of private letters, he would not have expected to be remembered at all; but, as this edition of some of them shows, he deserves to be. The letters published here date from the period leading up to and immediately following the official negotiations towards the Treaty of Ryswick, and are accompanied by a small number of further letters that touch on the aftermath of that agreement.
Callieres's correspondent, Marie le Bailleul, marquise d'Huxelles, occupied a central position in the Paris intelligentsia of her day, one which has yet to be properly documented and understood. In that regard, Pope, in an introduction albeit necessarily focusing on Callieres, gives some original and important pointers to further research. It seems an extraordinary oversight by the combined forces of literary scholars and historians of politics and diplomacy and the War of the League of Augsburg that Callieres's letters to her have never been published - except for little more than one-tenth of them in an imperfect transcription in an out-of-the-way location nearly one hundred and thirty years ago. A charitable explanation of the omission is that historians have regarded them as too personal, whilst literary scholars have not felt the urge to follow this second-rank writer into what, for them, are the byways of his alternative career as the King's agent in the negotiation of a peace treaty.
Very rarely does Callieres relax his guard enough to say anything indiscreet about the course of the negotiations, and when he does, it is to be feared, the letters or parts of letters containing such indiscretions were abstracted by his correspondent - there is evidence of that, but absolutely none to suggest censorship or confiscation - and were sent on to third parties who craved such news. The unfortunate but virtually inevitable result is that they are now lost: one fragment, not lost but buried in an archive of Mme d'Huxelles's correspondence with La Garde, and unearthed by Pope, appears to prove the point. On the other hand, however much we might crave Callieres's missing narrative of the negotations themselves and the issues that were debated, much of that information is known already from published accounts. Here instead, we acquire something original and more rewarding. In the first place, the letters convey a rich picture of the posturings and the paraphernalia of the preliminary diplomacy and the daily doings of a man who was as likely to be rubbing shoulders with William of Orange as negotiating the lease of properties for his French colleagues to occupy.
They overflow with small details and anecdotes that would enthuse a modern Macaulay - William of Orange speaking fluent French with a slight lisp, or discursing on the Battle of Seneff that had been fought some 22 years before, and comparing the armies of his day with those that fought that bloody encounter; the arrangements for canal transport to bring Callieres's colleagues to The Hague; the entrepreneurial spirit of the grasping Dutch wresting every last florin from the influx of negotiators whose first needs were food and lodging, long before the concept of supply and demand had been cornered for the use of economic planners and commentators; reflections on the small crises caused by the late arrival of the ordinarily reliable postal deliveries; ice-skating in the frozen fields; the importing of tea through Holland because the Dutch were shipping it from the East long before the French thought of doing so; the subtleties of seating arrangements at a ball; the ability of negotiators on either side to treat each other with dignity and integrity; the scurrilous Dutch-printed French-language scandal sheets that Callieres dispatched to his correspondent in France, knowing that they could not circulate there publicly.
Moreover, they show us a thinker who tried to rationalize a pragmatic position somewhere between Quietism, Jansenism, and even Protestantism whilst remaining loyal to the requirements of religious orthodoxy in the aftermath of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (Pope calls Callieres "a devout Catholic", a description which seems to me to beg the question); and they show him in relaxed mode, never descending into crass informality, but even so, often allowing glimpses of the private individual who sincerely and affectingly remarks more than once that he would much prefer to discuss his news and his opinions with his correspondent face to face by her fireside. Indeed, these letters form one side of the conversations that would have taken place, and, in one of them (XXII), he says that a letter can be likened to a "tableau de la conversation" and must not stretch the patience of the reader but rather, provide variety and changes of subject. (One is reminded of Mme de Sevigne's dictum that "il y a des entr'actes a nos conversations".)
Even when he veers towards the sanctimonious, as he undoubtedly does at times, Callieres remains within the spirit of what one can safely presume were their face-to-face exchanges, if only because Mme d'Huxelles could match him in sanctiomoniousness, as any reader of her letters to La Garde will agree. Further evidence that he consciously crafts his writing is shown by his inclusion of comments on letter-writing technique (XLIV, XLVII). It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the letters also demonstrate Callieres's skills as a craftsman of polished French. He often refers to "nouvelles" in a way that shows he has in mind not only published but also private manuscript newsletters - Mme d'Huxelles is known to have regularly circulated such private documents herself, and he was aware of it. Indeed, from the second letter in the collection, it is clear that he himself receives from her information of high quality and considerable interest, and knows that she is in a position to supply more; in that letter and many others he explicitly asks for information that he expects her to be able to discover - some of it delicate and possibly even secret.
In conscious comparison, perhaps, he often disparages the value of his own information, saying he is sending only trivial news (e.g., at the end of letter XLIII), his words constituting more than an apology for his dullness because they also imply that she may not find it worth forwarding his news to the recipients of her newsletters. Just as we, on the other hand, never find him dull, it is reasonable to suppose that neither did she. Callieres is also modest about his metaphysical musings, which he calls, at one point, "[des] reflexions [qui] naissent au bout de ma plume" (XXVII); and when not depreciating the contents of his letters, he instead depreciates himself, in a manner which makes his protestations - "I count for nothing in all this" (XXIII) - seem utterly sincere. Yet at other times and in other contexts, this belittling of self rings hollow, such as when he lets it be understood that he has no interest in being appointed ambassador to Holland, and, having been passed over, declines to acknowledge his disappointment in tones which drip with the very disappointment he so earnestly denies.
He might have been more circumspect had he known - to offer a contemporary example - about Tronson's acerbic remarks to Fenelon when the latter was appointed tutor to the duc de Bourgogne in 1689. Ostensibly congratulating Fenelon, who had let it be known that he had no hand in seeking such preferment, Tronson writes with merciless scepticism: "On a souvent plus de part a son elevation qu'on ne pense: il est tres rare qu'on l'ait apprehendee et qu'on l'ait fuie sincerement; on voit peu de personnes arriver a ce degre de regeneration. L'on ne recherche pas toujours avec l'empressement ordinaire les moyens de s'elever; mais l'on ne manque guere de lever adroitement les obstacles [...] ainsi personne ne saurait s'assurer entierement qu'il ne se soit pas appele soi-meme." (Correspondance de Fenelon, ed. by J. Orcibal, II, 128-30.) That is the kind of comment Callieres himself would have been too polite to make to a correspondent, but he must have been aware of the corollary that there is very little to be gained from pretending that one's hopes were never raised. Why, then, Callieres's protestations?
Because, of course, like everyone else, and in spite of his stoic principles, he needs to save face even if the veil of disinterestedness is too transparent to fool us, still less his percipient correspondent. Through these chinks do we spy his humanity. This determination to do and say the right thing, and to be seen to do it, fitting as it was (and is) to a loyal and practised representative of one's country, characterizes the letters as it characterizes the man. One example among many is his concern to begin his letters respectfully, despite the years and the intimacy of his acquaintance with Mme d'Huxelles. One is quickly struck, and struck another six dozen times in this collection, by the ingenious variations on the flattering compliment - each from the same mold, of course, but never completely repetitious, and despite their predictability they never seem insincere. Indeed, they provide a kind of manual of courteous letter openings (and closings, too) - a practical demonstration rather than an art poetique, and no less intellectually satisfying for their practicality.
While Callieres does not complain overtly about the major issue that affected him personally in Holland, he is none the less given to some fairly unsubtle hints about other trying experiences. If, at times, this verges on the mawkish (XIX), it is certainly true (see, for example, LXVIII) that as a dedicated professional he had a lot to put up with in dealing with the posturings and irritating behaviour of Crecy and Poissy and Cely, and even at times his closest colleague Harlay-Bonneuil, to say nothing of the feeling that he is not being told everything. Moreover, and providing a distraction that must have been welcome and unwelcome by turns, the growing debacle which was to engulf French interests in Poland even as most people's eyes were turned to Ryswick meant that Callieres, who considered himself a Polish expert and itched to contribute usefully - and in the process, defend his friend, the abbe Polignac, against unjust malignment back in France - feels helpless to do so. We learn a lot about his personal history from the autobiographical letter (XVIII), which is helpfully augmented in Pope's introduction.
Callieres clearly prizes the values of the honnete homme, and believes them to be a particular Norman trait, he himself being a Norman. Indeed, there is a "them and us" feel to some of his comments, for example when, as a Norman, he virtually distances himself from the French in letter XX and does so again, more subtly, in letter XXI. He is well read in both imaginative literature and personal treatises (Astree, Clelie, Le Grand Cyrus, but also Richelieu's Testament politique and the memoirs of Bassompierre) and willing to embellish his letters with citations and references - which his correspondent must have enjoyed, if we are to believe his own testimony (XLVIII) - and he is also well versed in theatre, which he attends in The Hague, because in addition to his penchant for theatrical metaphor he makes references in passing to plays such as L'Amour medecin and La Foire de Bezons, which he may remember from Paris or may have seen performed by the French actors who were virtually permanent residents in The Hague. In his personal affairs he shows a bulldog determination to obtain money owed him, notably by the comte de Marsan (passim, but see, for example, letter XXVIII).
He is generous with his time and effort, seeking out painted portraits and engravings for his correspondent (XVIII) and sending them to her, with coins (which she also collected), books, and the latest scandal sheets and gossip from the almost unregulated French press in the Netherlands. If his undoubted eye for the ladies (e.g., LXI) evoked any jealousy on her part, we never hear of it; on the contrary, she seeks, albeit without success, to find him a wife. He has a Pascalian willingness to believe the best of others in a dispute, as shown, for example, when he thinks Vauban's disagreement with him must be attributable to the latter's not being in possession of all the facts (XII); we know he was a reader of Pascal, whose writings he clearly has in mind on occasion; he also read Montaigne. On the other hand, he is capable of tart comments: his characterization of the jealous men of letters (XXVI), whom he calls envious beasts, and the explicit reference to "gens envieux" (XLIV) are two of many.
He is alert to the danger of false rumours that can spread back home of doings abroad that have not been properly reported, as his allusion to the question whether there has been a dispute about seating in the theatre shows (LX), and it is clear that sometimes in his letters he is merely confirming or denying direct questions that have been put to him by his correspondent, leaving us to wonder what lay behind the question and how it was framed. His modern sensitivity to the public's attitude to what is going on (LXII) seems very democratic and was hardly likely to be consistent with the thinking of Louis XIV's court. On the other hand, this liberalminded and tolerant individual hankers, there in the Netherlands, after the sort of repressive police action that, in France, can close down a publisher who has printed something disobliging. He has no beam in his eye, but one suspects the presence of the mote even if he was also driven by the need to show Versailles that he was doing his best.
Indeed, for all Callieres's apparent tolerance in religious matters - sufficient, it would seem, as Pope implies, to weight against him in the King's mind when the King was choosing an ambassador to Holland - it is a circumscribed tolerance. He is not free of the influence of the court and the religious party. Holland may be a breath of fresh air to a man tired of religious squabbles in France, but his unmitigated statement in letter LXI that the major difference between the Lutherans and Calvinists, on the one hand, and the Catholics, is that the Catholics are right, smacks of narrow-mindedness of the kind one might have expected to see lampooned in his letters rather than adopted by a liberal thinker. That is, unless he is being ironic, but I do not believe it. Not that he is incapable of humour. Far from it. He has a refreshing tendency to tease Mme d'Huxelles, notably over such issues as her firm belief in the virtues and reliability of astrology, and exhibits throughout the letters collected here a sense of humour which oscillates between the subtle and the self-consciously ponderous.
At one extreme, without ever being as outrageous as a Rabelais (whom he has read: see XLVIII) or even a Moliere, he makes good use of the comic potential of lists such as the list of demands made by other representatives that have everything to do with status and protocol and nothing to do with the substance of the negotiations (LXVII). At the other, his leaden-footed witticisms such as the reference to crossing the Carpathian mountains by letter and the pun on the name Bonrepaus (both in letter X) evince the best of his self-mocking style and chime with his evident enjoyment of the sobriquets plongeon (referring to himself) and bon portier (indicating a friend of his), both of which we know to have been inventions of his correspondent. His use of personification - examples are the book and the tea (LXIII) - is invested with a deliberateness that further underlines his consciousness of literary style and craftsmanship.
In today's post-modern world we have become inured, not to say impervious, to art which stresses form over content, and although it would be false to suggest that the opposite was routinely the case in French classical writing - one has only to think of Scarron - he occasionally adopts a self-reflexive approach that, for his times, was unusual. His heavy-handedness can sometimes stretch a figure of speech beyond what a modern audience expects, e.g. the observations about truth (XXXII), but would have struck a chord with contemporaries and particularly with his correspondent, whose own letters to La Garde are embellished by similarly wrought passages. In truth, he likes figures of speech of all kinds, and has a marked taste for theatrical metaphor (for example, at the end of XXVII), the latter becoming particularly apt as he sketches some of the preparations for the Ryswick negotiations in which performance seems to outweigh substance. These may be chatty letters to a friend, but very rarely does his craftsmanship, or his sense of craftsmanship, flag.
One of the major virtues (and pleasures) of the present edition is the substantial introduction, in which Ambassador Pope pulls off the difficult feat of being both engaging and informative. I am pleased to endorse almost all of his opinions, but in the spirit of dialectic, I will make a couple of slightly dissenting comments. I have alluded already to my unease about his description of Callieres as a devout Catholic: I do not suggest that it is wrong, but rather, that it is too simple. I doubt whether Callieres or Huxelles would be as surprised as Pope implies to discover that these letters have not been published. Another writer of letters, Bussy-Rabutin, went to extraordinary lengths to preserve a record of his correspondence, and the consciousness of Bussy's cousin, Mme de Sevigne, of the extensive circulation her letters amongst readers in the Grignan entourage seems to have inspired her to heights of artistic creativity (sometimes, one suspects, at the expense of rigorous fidelity to the dull truth), so that in both cases we are permitted to wonder whether thoughts of literary immortality entered their heads.
Callieres's letters, however, survived for a much more workaday reason. Gaignieres, who had them, deposited them in the King's library where they would only ever be consulted by the curious, and because nothing gets thrown out of the Bibliotheque nationale de France, they are still there. I suspect Callieres and Huxelles were too realistic, and let it be said, too modest, ever to think they would be remembered for their correspondence; I have already set out the hierarchy of other reasons why Callieres might have wished to be remembered. As to Huxelles's letters to him, she seems to have asked him to destroy them (XIII), and we have to suppose that he did so, eventually and with a heavy heart, after having kept and re-read them many times. It is an action for which we have cause to be ungrateful to him, but Callieres would never have betrayed his friend's trust. Pope is in good company when he accuses Mme de Sevigne of coldness and jealousy towards her old friend.
Edouard de Barthelemy, in his own study of Mme d'Huxelles that underlies parts of Mr Pope's introduction, takes the same view, and surmises that their friendship had cooled because Mme de Sevigne does not mention her in the letters written in the last six years of her life. (He might have said "the surviving letters", since so many from that period are lost.) This seems harsh. Amongst Mme de Sevigne's last references to Mme d'Huxelles, we find her dining at her old friend's house, taking her grandson Louis-Provence to see her, and writing indulgently of her son Charles's contacts with her. Mme de Sevigne's obsession with her daughter's affairs resulted in her showing less interest in all but the most personally significant events, in contradistinction to Mme d'Huxelles, who continued to regard the dissemination of news of political and social importance as a paramount duty.
Observing, as Mme de Sevigne does, that Mme d'Huxelles sends La Garde news that she herself has not sent to her daughter is a statement of fact laced with gentle exasperation and mild crossness directed at her daughter's thirst for something she herself no longer cares for; perhaps there is even a trace of guilt in her echinate defensiveness. As to her comment about Mme d'Huxelles's constantly revising the news, that is not merely an acknowledgement of the latter's desire for objectiveness, accuracy and comprehensiveness, but a handy pretext for not sending such news herself. Moreover, had she paused to reflect on her own increasingly Jansenist leanings, her dwindling concern for what happened at court, and her station in French society of the last decades of the century, Mme de Sevigne would have realized that she was just as much a misfit and an intellectual subversive as any of those comrades who met in Mme d'Huxelles's alternative gatherings in the rue Sainte-Anne. The attitudes and influence of that section of alternative society that was represented by Mme d'Huxelles's gatherings have yet to be fully understood.
Superannuated Frondeurs and their immediate descendants, old supporters of Fouquet who had never become reconciled to his treatment, and survivors from the scandal of the Affair of the Poisons who had scraped a measure of rehabilitation mixed with people with Jansenist, Quietist, and even Protestant leanings and other Paris-based thinkers who, without openly opposing Louis XIV - though Vauban eventually went too far with his fiscal Project d'une dime royale (1707) - were sceptical about his policies' morality, validity, and efficacy. They supped and exchanged news and ideas at Mme d'Huxelles's house, where powerful courtiers from Versailles such as Pomponne, Rose, and Callieres's colleague Harlay-Bonneuil are known also to have been intimates. The beginnings of a mindset whose reach and influence historians have sometimes struggled to delimit, which perceived a distinction between the dynastic and territorial policies of the king, on the one hand, and the daily interests of the people of France on the other, are as traceable in Mme d'Huxelles's circle as anywhere.
At this time, such thinkers and pacifists and modernizers had no coherent programme of their own, and had yet to congregate around the duc de Bourgogne, in whom Fenelon had sought to fashion the reforming monarch that eighteenth-century France would need and the Grand Dauphin was incapable of becoming. (Fenelon was rewarded for his pains, even as the letters here published were written, by being promoted to the Archbishopric of Cambrai and then packed off to his see, forbidden ever to return to court or to have anything further to do with his former pupil.) The absolute monarchy was held together by the awesome personality at its centre, but the performance was beginning to wear thin and the limits of absolutism (and more important, perhaps, its shortcomings) were beginning to show.
Despite - or perhaps because of - his loyalty, Callieres's was one of the voices beginning to recognize new realities and new imperatives, consciously or unconsciously abandoning yesterday's issues such as the drive for unfettered territorial aggrandizement, and facing up instead to the need to deal pragmatically with problems that could no longer be ignored; or, if they were, would surface finally to confront an exhausted and depleted country surrounded by hostile and vengeful nations when the old king died. We know now that those alternative thinkers, those would-be opinion formers in the France of the 1690s, were the victims of one of history's malicious jokes, their hopes of creating or even influencing policy dwindling with their own advancing years as Louis XIV lived on and on. Even after the duc de Bourgogne succumbed to scarlet fever, the old king had one more shot in his locker, finally succeeding in his ambitious strategy to place a Bourbon on the Spanish throne even if he had to go to the brink of losing a war to do it.
The recipes of the would-be coterie of the duc de Bourgogne for the relief of France were not to be adopted; those of the Regent would have to suffice; but no one in the demi-monde of dissenting thinkers in the 1690s could have foreseen all of that. What of the hostess of these gatherings, Callieres's correspondent herself? Mme d'Huxelles was twice widowed. Her first husband, the marquis de Nangis, died at the Siege of Gravelines in 1644 within months of their marriage. Her second, the marquis d'Huxelles, lieutenant-general of the King's forces, killed while besieging the selfsame town fourteen years later, left her with two sons. One of those, also, she was to lose in battle, in August 1669, in the carnage of the ill-planned and incompetently executed Siege of Kandy. The other became a Marshal of France, a soldier and administrator of great talent, but alas, was estranged from his mother at an early age. With her personal misfortunes came a measure of financial security, and she was able to maintain a comfortable position in society with countless acquaintances and friends. Some of her letters are charming.
Even if they lack the sustained bravura of Mme de Sevigne, she is always worth reading; and even if she does not always aspire to write with great stylistic merit, she seems to have shared Bussy-Rabutin's knack of bringing the best out of a correspondent. The importance of the contents of many of her letters has been acknowledged. The question how influential she was in her own right has never been answered, but she was extraordinarily well informed. Many people corresponded with her, and major figures felt the need to call on her to pay their respects and exchange information, and from them and her voracious reading of published sources she derived a knowledge of what was going on at home and abroad. Pope alludes to her detective work: it is in character. Her connection with the dissemination of news was both direct and indirect.
It was not limited to her own manuscript newsletters, important as they were, for one of her habitues, Callieres's friend Renaudot, had inherited from his grandfather the "bureau d'adresses", and with it responsibility for the semi-official Gazette that appeared weekly, without fail, and in which (together with its supplements) was printed all the news that the Establishment wished to allow to be printed. I have always expected to find Donneau de Vise, editor of the Mercure galant and a gregarious man, in her entourage too - he lived close by, having an apartment in the Louvre which he shared with his second wife, the daughter of the royal sculptor, Etienne Le Hongre; but no evidence that he associated with her has been found. Perhaps he still sincerely believed in the praises he regularly heaped on the King; if so, he was a member of a dwindling minority. However that may be, the letters here published, and Pope's introduction, will be essential reading for any study of Mme d'Huxelles and her circle that eventually complements and updates the painstaking but elderly work by Barthelemy that remains the sole serious extended contribution to knowledge about her.
To return to Callieres: warm hearted, knowledgeable, fallible, loyal, hard working, experienced, cultured, articulate, given occasionally to the kind of self-pity that would never have survived the calculated fashioning of his work with an eye to posterity; above all, human. These letters bring Francois de Callieres to life, and his importance will be sealed in the minds of the readers of this ground-breaking edition by the thorough and perceptive account of him, the careful editing, informative notes, and determined yet fair advocacy of Laurence Pope. Bath, England, July 2004 William Brooks