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COUNT GRAM MO N T.
As those who read only for amusement are, in my opinion, more worthy of attention than those who open a book merely to find fault, to the former I address myself, and for their entertainment commit the following pages to press, without being in the least concerned about the severe criticisms of the latter. I farther declare, that the order of time and disposition of the facts, which give more trouble to the writer than pleasure to the reader, shall not much embarrass me in these memoirs. It being my design to convey a just idea of my hero, those circumstances which most tend to illustrate and distinguish his character, shall find a place in these fragments just as they present themselves to my imagination, without paying any particular attention to their arrangement. For, after all, what does it signify where the portrait is begun, provided the assemblage of the parts form a whole which perfectly expresses the original ? The celebrated Plutarch, who treats his heroes as he does his readers, commences the life of the one just as he thinks fit, and diverts the attention of the other with digressions into antiquity, or agreeable passages of literature, which frequently have no reference to the subject : for instance, he tells us, that Demetrius Poliorcetes was far from being so tall as his father, Antigonus; and afterwards, that his reputed father, Antigonus, was only his uncle ; but this is not until he has begun his life, with a short account of his death, his various exploits, his good and bad qualities; and at last, out of compassion to his failings, brings forward a comparison between him and the unfortunate Mark Antony.
In the life of Numa Pompilius, he begins by a dissertation upon his preceptor Pythagoras; and, as if he thought the reader would be anxious to know whether it was the ancient philosopher, or one of the same name, who, after being victorious at the Olympic games, went full speed into Italy to teach Numa philosophy, and instruct him in the arts of government, he gives himself much trouble to explain this difficulty, and, after all, leaves it undetermined.
What I have said upon this subject is not meant to reflect upon this historian, to whom, of all the ancients, we are most obliged ; it is only intended to authorize the manner in which I have treated a life far more extraordinary than any of those he has transmitted to us. It is my part to describe a man, whose inimitable character casts a veil over those faults which I shall neither palliate nor disguise ; a man, distinguished by a mixture of virtues and vices so closely linked together, as in appearance to form a necessary dependence, glowing with the greatest beauty when united, shining with the brightest lustre when opposed.
It is this indefinable brilliancy, which, in war, in love, in gaming, and in the various stages of a long life, has rendered the Count de Grammont the admiration of his age, and the delight of every country wherein he has displayed his engaging wit, dispensed his generosity and magnificence, or practised his inconstancy: it is owing to this that the sallies
of a sprightly imagination have produced those admirable bon mots, which have been with universal applause transmitted to posterity. It is owing to this, that he preserved his judgment free and unembarrassed in the most trying situations, and enjoyed an uncommon presence of mind and facetiousness of temper in the most imminent dangers of war. I shall not attempt to draw his portrait: his person has been described by Bussi and St. Evremond, authors more entertaining than faithful. The former has represented the Chevalier Grammont as artful, fickle, and even somewhat treacherous, in his amours, and indefatigable and cruel in his jealousies. St. Evremond has used other colours to express the genius and describe the general manners of the Count ; whilst both, in their different pictures, have done greater honour to themselves than justice to their hero.
It is, therefore, to the Count we must listen, in the agreeable relation of the sieges and battles wherein he distinguished himself under another hero ; and it is on him we must rely for the truth of passages the least glorious of his life, and for the sincerity with which he relates his address, vivacity, frauds, and the various stratagems he practised either in love or gaming. These express his true character, and to himself we owe these memoirs, since I only hold the pen, while he directs it to the most remarkable and secret passages of his life.
In those days affairs were not managed in France as at present: Louis XIII.2 then sat upon the throne, but the Cardinal de Richlieu3 governed the kingdom; great men com manded little armies, and little armies did great things: the fortune of great men depended solely upon ministerial favour, and blind devotion to the will of the minister was the only sure method of advancement. Vast designs were then laying in the heart of neighbouring states the foundation of that formidable greatness to which France has now risen: the police was soinewhat neglected; the highways were impassable by day, and the streets by night; but robberies were committed elsewhere with greater impunity. Young men, on their first entrance into the world, took what course they thought proper: whoever would, was a Chevalier, and whoever could, an Abbé,—I mean a beneficed Abbé: dress made no distinction between them; and, I believe, the Chevalier Grammont was both the one and the other at the siege of Trino.4
This was his first campaign, and here be displayed those attractive graces which so favourably prepossess, and require neither friends nor recommendations in any company to procure a favourable reception. The siege was already formed when he arrived, which saved him some needless risks; for a volunteer cannot rest at ease, until he has stood the first fire: he went therefore to reconnoitre the generals, having no occasion to reconnoitre the place. Prince Thomas5 commanded the army; and as the post of lieutenant-general was not then known,6 Du Plessis Pralin' and the famous Viscount Turennes were his major-generals. Fortified places were treated with some respect, before a power which nothing can withstand had found means to destroy them by dreadful showers of bombs, and by destructive batteries of hundreds of pieces of cannon. Before these furious storms which drive governors under ground and reduce their garrisons to powder, repeated sallies bravely repulsed, and vigorous attacks nobly sustained, signalized both the art of the besiegers and the courage of the besieged; consequently sieges were of some length, and young men had an opportunity of gaining some knowledge. Many brave actions were performed on each side during the siege of Trino; a great deal of fatigue was endured, and considerable losses sustained; but fatigue was no more considered, hardships were no more felt in the trenches, gravity was at an end with the generals, and the troops were no longer dispirited after the arrival of the Chevalier Grammont. Pleasure was his pursuit, and he made it universal. . . Among the officers in the army, as in all other places, there are men of real merit, or pretenders to it. The latter endeavoured to imitate the Chevalier Grammont in his most shining qualities, but without success; the former admired his talents and courted his friendship. Of this number was Matta :' he was agreeable in his person, but still more by the natural turn of his wit; he was plain and simple in his manners, but endued with a quick discernment and refined delicacy, and full of candour and integrity in all his actions. The Chevalier Grammont was not long în discovering his amiable qualities; an acquaintance was soon formed, and was succeeded by the strictest intimacy.