A Prince of Pleasure

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    Biografie, Saggistica

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The Bibliography cites the chief documents upon which this volume has been based. Some modern critics hardly value the memoirs of the seventeenth century at their real worth. They are indeed collections of gossip, often requiring considerable patience to search for the illuminating facts scattered throughout their pages. But social history is founded upon personal gossip. Pepys was a gossip, so was Horace Walpole, and, later, Creevey. Madame de Sevigne was an enchanting museum, whose letters would be even more fascinating if she had not been oppressed by the fear that her correspondence was liable to examination in the post. It cannot be said that French memoirs sparkle in every line. Although the bore is not encouraged on the other side of the Channel, it is impossible to restrain him altogether from writing to his relations or dictating his reminiscences. But even the bore, however wearisome, has interesting material at his command. French writers of this description have generally something to say, and, if their budget runs thin, they draw on that keen wit and happy philosophy which is a national rather than a personal gift. When they tell a story they endeavour to recapture the actual conversation. It is curious to compare an incident as related respectively by Mademoiselle de Mont pensier and Ralph Montagu. The Englishman gives the bald facts the Frenchwoman artistically creates a dramatic picture.

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