Margaret's Reviews > The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV

The Splendid Century by W.H. Lewis
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Jun 21, 10

bookshelves: french-history, history, louis-xiv, authors-kl
Read in January, 2009, read count: 1

Lewis's first sentence explains that "if long-winded titles were still the fashion, [this book:] might with more accuracy have been called 'Some aspects of French life in the days of Louis XIV'," and indeed, that would be a good description. Lewis doesn't cover every possible facet of life during those days, but selective though it is, it's very enjoyable, based on a vast familiarity with and a deep fondness for the writers of the period and full of wonderful details. On court etiquette, among other fascinating tidbits, there's this: "Who could guess that if you encounter the royal dinner on its way from the kitchen to the table, you must bow as to the King himself, sweep the ground with the plume of your hat, and say in a low, reverent, but distinct voice, La viande du Roi?"

Lewis does show his own opinions and prejudices, some of which a more modern audience may not agree with -- for instance, "[t:]o the modern reader, it cannot but be nauseating to learn that the prudent man about town, anxious to avoid the results of incautious sexual promiscuity, should invoke the protection of St. Job," which I just find interesting, not nauseating -- but he makes a definite effort to present a balanced picture. By the end of the book, I simply felt that I'd spent a few hours with a well-educated, well-spoken companion, and we'd had a lovely and interesting chat about a fascinating period.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I have this! But I haven't read it yet.


Margaret I hadn't realized until recently that it's by C.S. Lewis's brother (whom I think of as "Warnie", not as "W.H."). I've only had time for one chapter yet, but it's v. amusing so far.


message 3: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Margaret wrote: "I hadn't realized until recently that it's by C.S. Lewis's brother (whom I think of as "Warnie", not as "W.H."). I've only had time for one chapter yet, but it's v. amusing so far."

I heard of him writing those histories thru reading the Carpenter bio, and grabbed that one in a used bokstore. I have one other one (which I also haven't read), I think....




Sherwood Smith I love this book--bought it decades ago in England, before I knew who he was. I wish I had his others!


Margaret I wish I had his others!

Me too, but wow, they don't look easy to get. I think I'm at least going to have to track down Sunset of the Splendid Century: The Life and Times of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine 1670-1736, though.


Margaret And I just broke down and got a used copy of his bio of Louis XIV from Amazon.


Sherwood Smith Margaret wrote: "And I just broke down and got a used copy of his bio of Louis XIV from Amazon."

Oh I do have one of those . . . interesting to check it against some of the more modern biographies; for example, he seems to maintain a better balance than Nancy Mitford, who used the same sources, but uses her bio as a platform to excoriate Madame de Maintenon, basically for having the temerity to be ordinary of birth yet became queen, however morganatic, and more contemporary views such as Charles Elliott's Princess of Versailles who takes the opposite view.


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