Folio 222

une autre fois m’a dit, qu’ayant l’honneur de connoistre M de Corneille particulierement il m’asseuroit sur son sujet, que quand il travalloit sur le Cid, il ne sçavoit ce que ce est que les Regles de la Poesie. & que apres il ne fut pas seulement persuadé de luy par les instances de M. de la Mothe de les [erasure] <estudier>, mais qu’il contribuiot encor à sa Lecture et qu’il luy presté le Poetique de Scaliger.

[Editor's Translation. Another time he told me, that having the honour to know M. de Corneille well he could confidently assert of his subject, that when he was working on Le Cid,[1] he knew nothing of the rules of poesie. And that afterwards he was not only persuaded to it by the entreaties of M. de la Mothe to [erasure] study them, but that he also contributed to his reading and lent him Scaliger’s Poetics.[2]]

Que Mr Corneille l’aisné fut né 1606 par le qeel conte il avoit 6 ans moins que luy.

[Editor's Translation. That M. Corneille the elder was born in 1606 and thus was six years younger than himself.]

Que ce fut de façon de Mr Corneille quand il pensoit à travailler à quelques une de ses Pieces de Teatre, de se mettre au lit et de se faire couvrir avec plusieurs grosses couvertures afin de l’echauffer et, se faire suer. apres qu’il eut este <demeuré> quelques momens en cet estat la, en sortant de lit, il demanda à escrire

[Editor's Translation. That it was the custom of M. Corneille when he intended to work on one of his plays, to go to bed and cover himself with several great blankets to heat him up and make him sweat. When he had been stayed some moments in that state, getting up, he asked [lit. to write] for writing materials.[3]

Folio 222 verso

A M. M.[4] de B.V.

Je n’ay souhaité autre chose que l’occasion de vous tesmoisgne la passion que j’ay pour v[ot]re service, mais n’estant pas à present en estat de vous faire hon[n]eur de ma personne, je vous supplie tres humblement de me vouloir conserver dans v[ot]re memoire, sans que vous vous donnastez aucunement la honte de ma conserversation

[Editor's Translation: I wished for nothing other than the opportunity to manifest to you the passion I have for your service, but not being at present in a condition to do you honour in person, I beg you very humbly that you would keep me in your memory, without giving yourself the shame of my conversation.]

The Ancients did well to give caution against purging medcins in the beginning of deaseases and when the humours be crud[e], for these medcins they most used (as Ellebore[5] and Scamonie[6]) were but rude and indeede \very/ churlish (and we consider too the great dos they gave \of/ them) lett the body be ever soe well disposed to be purgd.  They never heard of our mamea,[7] Cassie,[8] Senna[9] etc otherwise perhaps they might have left us more favourable rules.

In an Entertein[10] from Sir Thomas Cru

Madame le Scarron[11] à Monsieur de Fouquet[12]

trouve parmy ses papiers apres son Arrest

Je haye ce peche mais se haye [erasure] davantage la pauvreté. J’ay receu vos diz mille escus, envoyez moy autant et nous verrons ce que nous pourrons faire pour vous servir. je vous defend de desesperer. V[ot]re Scarron

[Editor's Translation. Mlle Scarron to M. de Fouquet, found among his papers after his arrest

I hate this sin but hate poverty more. I have received your ten thousand écus, send me as much [again] and we will see what we can do to serve [or help] you. I forbid you to despair. Your Scarron.

[1] For an analysis of Corneille’s play, ‘Le Cid’, see G. Couton, Corneille: Connaisance des Lettres  (Paris: Hatier, 1969), 41-50.

[2] Julius Caesar Scalinger (1484-1558) was an Italian scholar and physician who spent most of his career in France.  He defended Aristotelianism against humanist attacks. Scalinger’s Poetices (Lyons, 1561; Leyden, 1581) was posthumously published.  It was a cogent piece of literary criticism based on the Poetics of Aristotle.  In particular, Scalinger’s praise of the tragedies of Seneca over those of the Greeks influenced Corneille.   As La Mothe le Vayer’s De la vertu de payens (The Virtue of the Pagans (Paris: Augustin Courbé, 1647) extensively discussed Seneca and other Stoics, La Mothe le Vayer was quite familiar with Scalinger’s work.  Thus, La Mothe le Vayer’s claim that he alerted Corneille to Scalinger’s work may well be true.   La Mothe le Vayer’s De la vertu was also noteworthy in its sinophilic stance, placing Confucius in merit beside Plato and Aristotle. In his discussion of virtuous pagans and their chances of eternal salvation, La Mothe le Vayer was also attacking the intellectual tyranny of the Catholic Church.  See Arnold H. Rowbotham, ‘La Mothe le Vayer’s Vertu des Payens and Eighteenth-Century Cosmopolitanism’, Modern Language Notes 53, 1 (January 1938), 10-14.

[3] Corneille in his literary habits was a voluntary ‘visionnaire’, much in the manner of Ronsard and the French Plélaide theory of poetic inspiration, which viewed the poet as possessed by a divine furor, impassioned and spontaneous as opposed to creating studied and carefully constructed art.   In 1650, Corneille addressed these words to Mlle. de Cosnard in a dedicatory poem to her tragedy, les Chastes martyrs: Pursuis, divine esprit, continue à charmer, Entreteins ce beau que tu viens d’ allumer; . . . Des muses nous prenons le génie et la loi.   See Richard Kendall Leeman, ‘Corneille and Dryden: Their Theories of Dramatic Poetry’ (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1961), 42.

[4] Presumably Monsieur de la Mothe.  It is not known who “B.V.” was.

[5] White hellebore or Veratrum album (false hellebore), believed to have been the hellebore used by Hippocrates as a purgative.

[6] A twining Asian convolvulus plant, Convolvulus scammonia, having arrow-shaped leaves, white or purple flowers, and tuberous roots.  A resinous juice obtained from the roots of this plant has purgative properties.

[7] Possibly Mammea americana (family Clusiaceae (Guttiferae)), native to the Caribbean and widely cultivated in tropical America; the large edible fruit of this tree, which has a sweet, yellow, aromatic flesh.

[8] Cassia or cinnamon bark.

[9] A large genus of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae, traditionally used as purgatives.

[10] Entretien.

[11] Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon (1635-1719), wife of Paul Scarron.  After Scarron’s death, she became the second wife of King Louis XIV of France, though because of their disparity in social status, the marriage was never officially admitted.

[12] Nicolas Fouquet, marquis de Belle-Île, vicomte de Melun et Vaux (1615-1680), and the Superintendant of Finances in France from 1653 to 1661.  He fell out of favour with Louis, and the king had him imprisoned from 1661 until his death in 1680.

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