Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/771

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GEORGE ELIOT'S HEROINES.

endeavour to debase a boy's mind, and to unfit a young monarch for all the duties of good government, must have been destitute of the nobility of character pretended to in that speech and those epistles. Besides which, the concluding gasconade about stabbing his niece with his own hand is so opposed to his cold and timid nature, that it would alone suffice to throw discredit upon the whole. It all meant what Voltaire says it did — he found it wise to think with the queen.

Orders were given that Marie should be placed in the convent to which poor Olympia had been already consigned. With tearful eyes the young Louis conducted her with his own hand to the carriage which was to take her away. "You weep, and yet you might command," were her parting words.

There had been several brides proposed for the young monarch — Henrietta of England, Marguerite of Savoy; but as both countries were desirous of cementing a peace, policy determined the Spanish alliance, and at the end of February 1660, after several months of negotiations, the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed, which gave France Alsace, Roussillon, and a large part of Flanders. "Mazarin has one fault," remarked Don Louis de Haro, the Spanish ambassador; "he suffers his design to cheat to be constantly apparent."

Although Louis was now twenty-two years of age, Mazarin still held absolute power over the State; the king presided over his councils, but his was but the shadow of authority; and those who would obtain favours from him must solicit them through the cardinal. The queen-mother was a mere cypher, who could obtain nothing for herself or her adherents without his permission. A painful and fatal disease, however, was hurrying him fast to the grave; anxious to conceal its ravages from strangers, when he received foreign ministers he had his cheeks covered with rouge. Death found him seated in his chair, dressed in his full cardinal's robes, and his beard carefully trimmed, as if for a levée; he continued to sign dispatches while his hand could grasp a pen; power passed away only with life. To the last he was consistent with his old hypocrisy; a few hours before his decease he sent a message to the Parlement, in which he declared that he died its very humble servant. The event took place on the 9th of March 1661.

The character of Mazarin is fully pourtrayed in the events of his life: how poor it appears beside the Satanic grandeur of his predecessor! it is all mean and wholly mediocre. "Eight years of absolute and tranquil power from his return until his death were marked by no establishment, either glorious or useful," remarks Voltaire. With all his cunning and subtlety, his knowledge of human nature was very shallow. Judging from himself, he believed interest to be the ruling passion of all men, and seldom or never in his calculations made allowance for vanity, pride, self-love, and woman-love, which determine more than the half of human actions. Self-interest is the usual goal we propose upon starting, but we so often wander out of the straight road into enticing-looking bypaths, in the mazes of which we sometimes lose ourselves, and never find the way back. It is said that Mazarin completed Richelieu's work; truly he followed up the policy of his great predecessor as far as his own dissimilar nature would permit him; but the one was an oak that braved every tempest unflinchingly, the other a reed that bent before the storm, and, when it was past, rose up straight and supple as before. Richelieu was half lion, half fox; Mazarin was all fox and no lion. Richelieu had given an impetus to his work that carried it resistlessly on to its appointed end; he would have crushed the Fronde in fewer weeks than it existed years, and but for what he had done it would have assumed proportions terrible as the League, but he had crippled the hands which would have made it so, and his mighty genius asserted itself even in the grave.

Mazarin possessed one amiable virtue — clemency. His whole career is unmarked by one vindictive or sanguinary act; never had minister caused so little blood to flow by the axe, and never had minister enemies more numerous and bloodthirsty. This is rare and unique praise for a man of that age. But we must remember that the Italians were at least a century in advance of the French in civilization. Let us not, however, begrudge him this virtue, for he had few others.




From The Spectator.

GEORGE ELIOT'S HEROINES.

Whether Gwendolen Harleth be the leading character in George Eliot's new story or not, — rumour says that the first section is misleading in this respect, and that we shall find the young lady to whose