Page:Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies Volume II.djvu/35

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INTRODUCTION

excellent speaker. If Rabelais had a Gallic mind then Brantôme's was French. His cheerful and lively conversation was pleasing to all. He had a reputation of being a brilliant man. But he was also known as a discreet person. Alençon, who was a splendid story-teller himself and liked to hear love stories more than anything else, preferred conversation with him to anyone. His naïveté and originality made friends for him everywhere. He had a brave and noble nature and was proud of being a Frenchman, he was the personified gentilhomme français.

And thus his book originated. He must have taken up his pen quite spontaneously one day. Now from the great variety of his own experiences at court and in war, he poured forth a remarkable wealth of peculiar and interesting features which his memory had preserved. It is a book of the lovelife during the reign of the Valois. These stories were not invented, but they were anecdotes and reports taken from real life. He was able to evade the danger of boredom. There is style even in his most impudent indiscretions. He only stopped at mere obscenities. On the other hand, he never hesitated to be cynical. As this age was fond of strong expressions, a puritanical language was out of the question. Not until the reign of Louis XIV. did the language become more polite. Neither was Brantôme a Puritan, how could he have been? But he had character. He took pleasure in everything which was a manifestation of human energy. He loved passion and the power to do good or evil. (To be sure he also had some splendid things to say against immoderacy and vehemence of passions. So he was a fit companion of the Medici and the Valois.)

There is not much composition in his books. His attention wandered from one story to the other. Boccaccio, the foremost story-teller of this period, is more logical. An academical critic says of Brantôme: "He reports without choice what is good and bad, what is noble and abominable, the good not without warmth, but the bad with indestructible cheerful-

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