Saint-Evremond and the Decline of Fideism
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The transition from libertinage, which may be described as free-thought in the fideist tradition, to early deism, which is free-thought of the rationalist variety, is too complex a development to be studied in the work of any one writer. It took some time to complete, and individuals seem to have remained true either to reason or to faith. But the first part of the process, a gradual detachment from faith, is exemplified in the writings, over many years, of the exiled moralist Charles de Saint-Denis de Saint-Evremond. He was, according to the standard evaluation, the most elegant of the libertin writers, a link between Montaigne and Voltaire. His life (1614–1703)l would have been conventional for a cultured French nobleman — a soldiering youth, the Fronde (more or less on the Court side), and an old age spent in literary dilettantism and salon intrigue — except that his satirical habits kept getting him into trouble. He was in the Bastille in the 1650s for impertinences at the expense of Mazarin. After the disgrace of Fouquet, in 1661, he had to leave France because his Lettre sur la paix des Pyrénées, full of ironic and trenchant criticisms of Mazarin’s conduct of the peace negotiations in 1659, was found among Fouquet’s papers. From then on Saint-Evremond ived in exile, three years in England, five in Holland, and the remainder again in England, in the society of the Court and Hortense Mancini, the Duchesse Mazarin.
KeywordsChristian Faith Peace Negotiation Christian Morality Religious Topic Usual Reputation
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