16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 38

THE LIFE OF LOUIS XI.* WE wonder for what reason,

besides the romance and picturesqueness that hang round the name, Mr. Hare should represent his hero as having been born "in the very heart of old Touraine, within the ancient city of Bourges." Unless we are very much mistaken, there never was a time when Bourges, the chief town of Berry, could be described as belonging to the old province of Touraine, the dimensions of which were rather less than those of the present department of Indre-et- Loire, the boundaries being Maine and the Vendomois to the north, Poitou to the south, Berry and the Blesois to the east, Anjou to the west. In early times the province was a little larger, but we cannot discover that it ever included Berry and its capital.

However, Tourangeau or Berrichon, the city of Bourges gave birth in 1423 to one of the most remarkable men in French history, or, indeed, in the European history of that day. Mr. Hare's excursions and studies in the world of the Renaissance have brought him in contact with few more curious and interesting figures than Louis XI. The process of the clever King's rehabilitation, the raising of him from a place among traditional villains to a high rank among unselfish, patriotic Monarchs, has been going on for some time in France; but we in England have not profited much, till now, by the labours of M. Charavay, M. Vaesen, M. Legeay. Mr. Hare may be congratulated on having opened a fresh field—at least a fresh point of view—to English readers. The Louis of Quentin Durward seems at first sight to have disappeared completely. We have in his place a Prince worthy of all respect in his public and private life, a kind relation, a sincere Christian, a great and wise Monarch, whose work in France, strengthening, pacificating, was the forerunner on a higher level of that of Richelieu and Louis XIV.

There is no doubt that Mr. Hare and his authorities are right, as far as politics are concerned, in this new estimate of Louis XI. He was an exceedingly clever, far-seeing, patriotic King of France,—patriotic, that is, with the patriotism of a statesman who occupies himself much more with the present and future prosperity of his country as a whole than with the • The Life of Louis XL : the Rebel Dauphin and the Statesman King. From his Original Letters and other Documents. B7 Christopher Hare, LUnstrated,, London : Harper and Brothers, [1.0s. 644

individual sufferings caused to the people of that country by his policy. A ruler of this kind was rare in the fifteenth century, and in no age is he likely to be popular. Louis XL was hated, both by the nobles he tried to crush and the people he loaded with taxes. To gain his great end of strengthening his kingdom, he certainly, as M. Legeay says, " made the sacrifice even of his popularity." Mr. Hare aptly quotes a few remarks on Louis XI. by Mr. Stanley Loathes in Vol. I.

of The Cambridge Modern History. Here, we think, the King meets with justice, and with considerably less favour. than Mr. Hare himself is ready to show him, so that the quotation hardly chimes in with the rest of the book. Among the rulers of his time, according to Mr. Leathes, Louis stands out as "the only one who both reigned and governed" ;—

" Great he was in intellect and in.tenaoity of purpose, great in prosperity and even greater in misfortune. Whatsoever he did had its determined end, and that end was the greatness of France. The universal condemnation which he has incurred may bo ascribed chiefly to two causes; the unrelenting sternness with which he visited treachery in the great, and the severity of the

taxation which he found it necessary to impose The burden of taxes was cruel, and the stories we read in BrantOme

and elsewhere are probably not without foundation. These methods may be supposed to have been required to bring the enormous taxes in."

That "universal condemnation" is a fact in history, not disproved by the flatteries of the States-General after the King's death, or by the carving of his likeness as a saint on a chunk door, or by the portrait drawn by Philippe de

Comines of the master he honestly admired. By the by, it is rather curious to notice that Mr. Hare, in the course of justifying his view of Louis as "a great and good man" (the italics are ours) takes Comines for gospel when he talks Of his master's virtue, but discredits him when he records his unkind coldness to his first wife, the unhappy Margaret

of Scotland.

No one is more keenly aware than Mr. Hare himself, accus-

tomed as he is to the peculiar mind of the fifteenth century, of all the necessary considerations, all the allowance that must be made, before that mind can be read in our own modern sense. If we ask what Comines means by " virtue and good qualities," we very soon find that he does not include honesty, generosity, kindness, faithfulness, mercifulness, truth, or any of the marks of what we should call "a good man." These things were nothing accounted of among clever people in the days of Comines. He, as Sainte-Beuve showed so delight- fully, was a political philosopher, a worthy contemporary of Machiavelli, whose admirations were his. He did not leave the service of Charles the Bold because that Prince was brutal, but because he found him hopelessly foolish. "He

had neither sense nor malice enough to carry through his undertakings." Worldly wise and "malicious " ; such was the ruler the fifteenth century admired. Louis XI. stands in the same rank, according to Bacon, with Ferdinand of Spain and Henry VII. of England,—all great politicians ; but their greatness was cunning, pure and simple, and if they are to be called good men, the word good has lost its meaning.

The modern French historians whom Mr. Hare has chiefly followed seem to place Louis XI. on a pedestal as to his personal character equally with his resolute purpose, his political wisdom and foresight, his genius for governing and managing men. All this he had, and all this made him a great King ; a great man if you will, and if it is necessary that such a man should not be judged by " the standards Of domestic morality." Cominea shows us all the care and skill of his government, his cautious dealing, the mock humility which sometimes disarmed his enemies, the study of men's passions, the preference of small people to great, the curiosity for which nothing was too trifling, the clever tongue which sometimes carried its owner a little beyond prudence when he was not afraid of his hearers, the deep dissimulation, the coldness and cruelty, the utter lack of good faith, so that Comines could only shrug his shoulders as to the probable fate of any hostages the King might give to Charles of Burgundy. On the whole, an amazingly clever and an utterly unscrupulous man.

As to his religion, it was probably not the mere super- stition it has been represented. Mr. Have gives him credit for "deep religious feeling," and he was evidently more devout after his fashion than most men of the time. ' For this reason, perhaps, his obseivances may have been handed down as remarkable. One cannot judge of so curious a conscience. On the whole, if Sir Walter Scott was unjust to the mind and the power and the political motives of Louis the King, we do not think that his instinct led him far wrong as to the moral and spiritual nature of the man.

There is hardly a more romantic period in history than that covered by this book. The two great figures, Louis of France and Charles of Burgundy, sometimes grotesque and sometimes terrible, move against a background of civil wars, desperate sieges, inhuman horrors without end. England with its Wars of the Roses is closely connected with France and French politics through the unlucky Queen Margaret. Further off in the picture is the always welcome and delightful presence of her father, the good King Rene, happy and beloved through all contemporary storms. Her hero- brother, John of Calabria, an interesting figure of the time, is so little known as to deserve a book to himself. May we recommend him to Mr. Hare as a special object for future study P