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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Louis XIV, The Famous Doge, “Lewis” XV and Madame de Pompadour

After I sent my last messages about Mme de Pompadour and her tambour frame, and her being the mistress of Louis XV, something was tickling my memory from
very recently...and then I realized with a start what it was:

“To say the truth," replied Miss Crawford, "I am something like the famous Doge at the court of Lewis XIV; and may declare that I see no wonder in this shrubbery
equal to seeing myself in it."

It seems an AWFULLY suspicious coincidence that the first hit on Google Images for "tambour frame" is that 1764 portrait of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress
of the grandson of "Lewis XIV" who just happens to be the very same historical personage mentioned by Mary Crawford in connection with the Parsonage shrubbery
which is described in that same descriptive paragraph in MP which refers to Mrs. Grant with her tambour frame!

But what could this all mean? First, I checked and learned that Louis XV was the grandson of Louis XIV, who was dead long before his grandson took Madame de
Pompadour as his mistress. So there was no direct connection between Madame de Pompadour and “Lewis XIV”.

I don’t know whether any Austen scholar has previously explained Mary's paraphrase of "the famous Doge at the court of Lewis XIV", but Google first took me to
ANOTHER painting, this one a pretty famous one, apparently, entitled "Louis receiving the Doge of Genoa at Versailles on 15 May 1685, following the Bombardment
of Genoa. (Reparation faite à Louis XIV par le Doge de Gênes)."

Google also quickly led me to the following interesting description of that historical event from the 1779 English language translation of The Age of Louis XIV
by none other than the great Voltaire:

“The Republick of Genoa humbled itself still more submissively towards {Louis XIV], than that of Algiers. The Genoese had sold gun-powder and bombs to the Algerines; and had likewise built four gallies for the service of Spain. The King forbad them, by his Envoy St. Olon, one of his Gentlemen in ordinary, to launch those ships, and menaced them with immediate chastisement, if they did not instantly comply with his demand. The Genoese, incensed at this violation of their liberties, and depending too much upon the support of Spain, gave him no satisfaction. Immediately fourteen men of war, twenty gallies, ten bombketches, with several frigates, set sail from the port of Toulon. Seignelai, the new Secretary of the Admiralty, whom the famous Colbert, his father, had got appointed to this post before his death, was aboard the fleet. This young man, full of ambition, courage, wit, and activity, would be a soldier and a minister at the same time. He was covetous of every kind of glory, ardent in all his undertakings, and blended his pleasures with his business, without interruption to either. Old Du Quene commanded the large ships, and the Duke of Montemar the gallies; both of whom were the creatures of the Secretary of State. They arrived before Genoa, and the ten bomb ketches discharged fourteen thousand S7 shells into the town, which reduced to ashes a principal part of those marble edifices which had intitled this city to the name of Genoa the Proud. Four thousand men were then landed, who marched up to the gates, and burned the Suburb of St. Peter of Arena. It was now thought prudent to submit, in order to prevent the total destruction of the place.

The King exacted that the Doge of Genoa, with four of the principal Senators, should come and implore his clemency in the Palace of Versailles; and lest the Genoese should elude the making this satisfaction, and lessen in any manner the pomp of it, he insisted farther that the Doge, who was to perform this embassy, should be continued in his magistracy, notwithstanding the perpetual law of Genoa, which deprives a Doge of his dignity who is absent but a moment from the city. Imperialo Lercaro Doge of Genoa, attended by the Senators Lomellino, Garibaldi, Dugrazzo, and Salvago, repaired to Versailles, in order to submit to every thing the King should require of them. The Doge, apparelled in his robes of state, his head covered with a bonnet of red velvet, which he often took off during his speech, made his submission, the very words and demeanour of which were dictated and prescribed to him by Seignelai. The King gave him audience, sitting and covered: but as in all the actions of his life he joined politeness with dignity, he behaved towards Lercaro and the Senators with as much graciousness as state. The Ministers, Louvois, Croissy, and Seignelai, treated them with more haughtiness; which gave the Doge occasion to say, "The King captivates our hearts by the manner in which he receives us, but his Ministers set them at liberty again." The Doge was a man of a lively wit. Every one has heard the reply he made to the Marquis of Seignelai, when he asked him what he found most remarkable at Versailles? “To see myself here," said he. “ END OF EXCERPT

So it seems that Mary Crawford (or, more likely, Eliza de Feuillide, upon whom the character of Mary is indubitably based, at least in significant part) really knew her stuff—not just that she accurately paraphrased the famous words of the famous Doge, but also because the paraphrase fits the CONTEXT I claim, i.e., that Mary and Fanny are engaged in an unacknowledged, but deadly serious, “cold war” of words about Edmund.

The Doge made his satirical comment as a kind of saving face, after having suffered the humiliation of begging for forgiveness from the French king, in order to prevent the REST of Genoa from being leveled by the much more powerful France. Similarly, I claim that Mary very well understood that Fanny’s “spontaneous” rhapsody about nature and memory was an oblique warning from Fanny to Mary to stay away from Fanny’s territory (i.e., Edmund), and Mary was not about to kowtow to Fanny on that point.
And I finish this message by returning to Madame de Pompadour, quoting now from Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France by Christine Pevitt Algrant, describing the reactions to her tragically early death:

“Those in the king’s inner circle missed the marquise. ‘She had the grand gift of amusing THE MAN WHO WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT IN THE KINGDOM TO AMUSE BECAUSE HE WAS SATIATED WITH EVERYTHING. He liked private life by inclination, but felt that his position demanded the contrary; so that, when he could escape his ceremonial duties, he went down his hidden staircase to her, where he often found his special friends, and at once put aside the trappings of King, ‘ wrote Dufort.

….In Paris, the tributes wer predictably satiric:

Here lies one who was twenty years a virgin, Seven years a whore, and eight years a pimp.”

Voltaire deeply mourned her death.

And what this all might mean vis a vis Mansfield Park—could either Dr. Grant or Sir Thomas be a representation of that same “Lewis XV”, I leave that to you to decide.

And all that from a tambour frame…… ;)

Cheers, Arnie


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