n 1648 the poet Saint-Amant wrote a letter to Nicolas de Grémonville, recent ambassador to Venice, concerning the death of his own brother Salomon, and giving other biographical details (Stfm III, 339-341) . Two centuries later the letter was published in the Revue de Rouen (1847), thanks to the benevolent collector Bezuel) . In 1855 it was included in Livet's edition of the poet's works) . Jean Lagny noted its sale in the Chambry Collection in 1881, and then lost track of it.
It has turned up again in England, in the famed 19th C. Morrison Collection) . The owner seems to have acquired the Grémonville letter at this time, since his Volume VI (subtitled "The Living Thoughts of a Race Departed") states that this part of the Collection was formed between 1865 and 1882. His editors reproduced the letter, referring to both Chéruel's and Livet's publications, and they researched additional information for their notes. On May 5, 1919, long after the death of Alfred Morrison, the letter was put up for auction by Sotheby's, in London. This time it was just included in a parcel of miscellaneous letters, and listed simply by a misspelled name: "Marc Saint-Armant" [sic]) .
Forty years later, Jean Lagny included the letter in his critical edition of Saint-Amant's Oeuvres, with more ample annotation. Yet, despite careful attention to the text in all four transcriptions, there are minor typographical discrepancies or modernizations in all of them: the letters é/è are occasionally modernized (M); l.5 vous faittes (M)/ vs. faites (Ch, Liv., Stfm); l.6 ce vous diray (Ch)/ vs. je (all others); l.15 osté de ce monde (Livet)/ vs. du monde (all others); 25 Mose (M)/ Moyse (others); 29 Colisoure /Colioure. It would seem that every publication of the Letter depends on Chéruel's original transcription. It would be helpful if the original manuscript, wherever it is, could be verified.
In 1959 I noted in a French book catalog that some Saint-Amant material was for sale. The Parisian bookseller Marc Loliée offered me that original Grémonville letter, for 120,000 francs ($300 at the time), but I was just beginning a career, and most unfortunately thought I could not afford it) . It was described as an "Admirable et rarissime lettre... remarquable à tous points de vue... 2 1/2 pp. grand in-folio. La signature est largement jetée au bas de la page." This description basically corresponds to that of Jean Lagny, who noted that this handwritten Grémonville letter was "la seule de Saint-Amant à jamais avoir été signalée" (Stfm III, 339). Its present location is unknown.
Recently I have studied at length two very recent discoveries: parallel versions of the poet's letter in 1631, to King Charles I and his Queen Henrietta-Maria of England. This article, analyzing the second known letter of Saint-Amant, is scheduled to appear in the Actes d'Oxford: Modernités/Modernities) .
"L'Albion"/ Recueil Conrart
In the Manuscript Room of the Bibliothèque Nationale (site Richelieu), I have checked the references to Saint-Amant texts, including his 61-page manuscript "L'Albion" (MS. fr. 1725). This long poem, describing the poet's impressions in England during the Cromwellian Revolution, is an important historical document, as well as being the only copy of the original MS. text in existence. The author admittedly waited too long to publish it; the political situation in both England and France was changing so rapidly, that it was no longer appropriate to release it as written. He presumably kept this slim quarto volume among his other works, then somehow it passed into Colbert's collection. Its old shelf/call numbers "Codex Colbert 3257/ Regius 7688 3.3" are quite readable on the upper left of the title page, which is photographically reproduced in the critical edition (Stfm III, 284f)]. It is listed in the 1682 Catalogue of Nicolas Clément (Stfm III, xix) ) . The poem has been studied for its literary and historical influence) . It is my hypothesis that Michel de Marolles, i.e. l'Abbé de Villeloin--the nearly life-long friend who assisted the poet in his last hours--would have realized that this unique parchment-bound manuscript should be saved as part of the Bibliothèque Royale. Marolles had been amassing a huge first collection of engravings--by 1655 he already owned 80,000 prints--which in a few years he would sell to Colbert, and which would form the basis of the present B.N. Cabinet des Estampes) .
As for manuscript authenticity, Saint-Amant's editor and biographer Jean Lagny considers the "Albion" volume as "soigneusement calligraphié de la main même de l'auteur" (ibid.). None of the other Saint-Amant MSS. referenced at the Salle des Manuscrits, and which I examined, are in this particular handwriting. One of the curators consulted there estimated each of these as "un travail de copiste."
On the other hand, at the Arsenal, the celebrated "Recueil Conrart" (MS. 15143), dating from 1624, has been analyzed at length by both Lachèvre and Lagny . It contains many important variants of Saint-Amant's early poems, but the handwriting differs. The texts are officially catalogued as "copiées de la main de Valentin Conrart" . Indeed, the poet's name in the MS. is spelled "Saint-Aman," or else ends with a "d" instead of a "t," as the poet himself always wrote it.
Almost a century ago, Saint-Amant's signature was photographically reproduced in the 17th Century poetry anthology of Gauthier-Ferrières . Then in Lagny's critical edition a photograph of the "Albion" title page was included, as we have noted. Since that event, several booksellers' catalogs have reproduced Saint-Amant autographs. Following is a series of the poet's formules d'adresse and signatures, numbered according to the rank/ "quality" of the recipient. These have been taken/ copied from the critical edition, from miscellaneous/other sources, and from surviving dedication copies of the Moyse Sauvé . Upon the publication of his monumental Biblical epic in 1653, the author had sent certain of these quarto volumes to "persons of influence," to other Academicians, and to certain Protestant friends. A number of these descriptions/references correspond to Lagny's scrupulously detailed listing, in his Bibliographie .
Formules de dédicace
1. De vos Serenissime Majestez,/ Le tres humble et tresobeissa[nt]/ seruiteur, ST. Amant. [Ltr > Ch/H-M (1631). See n. 7]
2. MADAME,/ De Vostre Majesté,/ Le tres-humble, tres-obeissant, & tres fidelle serviteur,/ SAINT AMANT. [A la Reine Marie-Louise; < Epitre dédicace 1653 (Stfm V, 5)]
3. MONSEIGNEUR,/ Vostre tres-humble, tres-obeïssant, &tres-passionné Serviteur,/ ST AMANT. [Ltr dédicace au Comte d'Arpajon 1649 (Stfm III, 130)]
4. MONSIEUR, de/ Vostre tres-humble & tres-obeyssant serviteur,/ SAINT-AMANT. [Dédicace Suitte des Oeuvres > Liancourt (Stfm II, 2)]
5. MONSEIGNEUR,/ Vostre tres-humble, tres-obeïssant & tres-passionné serviteur,/ ST AMANT. [Épître Duc de Mortemart 1658] (Stfm IV, 67).
6. Monsieur,/ Vostre treshumble et tresobéissant serviteur,/ ST AMANT. [Ltr > Grémonville 1648 (Stfm III, 341) (See n. 4)].
7. Monsieur,/ Votre tres-humble & tres-obéissant serviteur,/ St-AMANT. [Ltr > Bochart 1654] (Stfm V, 260).
8. ...ma chere et tres-illustre moitié/ Monsieur le baron de Villarnoul. ["nostre mot d'alliance", Épître 1646 (Stfm III, 133, n. 5)] MS. DEDICATIONS FROM Moyse Sauvé (1653).
9. Pour Monsieur/ de Laffemas/ Son treshumble et tresobeissant/ Seruiteur. St. Amant. [BNF, Rés. Ye. 648]
10. Pour le rare et illustre/ Monsieur L'Abbé de Villeloin./ Son treshumble et tresobeissant/seruiteur, St. Amant. [BNF, Rés. Ye. 649 (Marolles)]
11. Pour Madame la Marquise/ de Laval./ Son treshumble et tresobeissant/ Seruiteur/ St. Amant [Académie Française]
12. Pour Monseigneur/ Le Surintendant,/ Comte de Servient/
Son treshumble, tresobe[issant] /et trespassionné Seruit[eur]/ St. Amant [Berès Cat.69, #423; Bibliographie, p.45. See n.19 infra]
13. Pour mon trescher et tres-parfaict/ Amy Monsieur du Boineau/ Son treshumble et tre[es humble]/ seruiteur St. Ama[nt] (right side cut off). [Berès cat. 69, #422]
14. Pour Monsieur de Mezeray. [Worcester College, Oxford #P.4.5, unsigned]16.
15. "Mon tres cher et tres rare Amy Monsieur Chevreau" [Lagny, le Poete Saint-Amant, p. 360 [sic].
16. "Mon tres cher et tres rare Amy l'Illustre Monsieur Corneille" [ibid
Lagny had noted that other dedications, listed in booksellers' catalogs and hopefully now saved in private collections, were offered by the poet to Corneille, Costar, Pomponne de Bellièvre, M. de l'Angle, and Launoy.
In addition to these, the Conservateur of Rare Books at the B.N. Réserve (Tolbiac), M. Jean-Marc Chatelain, has very generously sent me his own supplement and revision of Lagny's 1960 listing .17 He reports that Lagny's no. 9 (supra), the copy addressed to Bellièvre, has been cited in a Catalogue of the librairie Sourget . It supposedly presents a photographic reproduction of the dedication to the "Premier Président, calling this an "identification fantaisiste," [sic], as if the former were actually Chancelier Séguier. But according to Lagny, Bellièvre had been given that title on April 22, and the Moyse was printed in late November--hence the dedication was not humorous.
Much more importantly, in a Berès Catalogue, Monsieur Chatelain has found a second photographic reference which would become the 15th dedication, unknown to Lagny . This copy is dedicated to the author's "trescher et tres-parfaict Amy Monsieur du Boineau." (formule 12 in list above). Berès describes the poet's particular effort to please in this case: "L'envoi a été séché à la poudre d'or et les paillettes brillent encore."
Saint-Amant's "very dear friend" was Tallemant de Boisneau, the older half-brother of the future author of the Historiettes. The three brothers had ennobled themselves, taking their surnames from those of family properties). The poet was a visitor to the family, and a close friend of Boisneau ("ils estoient amys de desbauche"), according to Gédéon who did not get along well with Boisneau. Tallemant des Réaux apparently did not like Saint-Amant, a quarter century his elder, and after 1657 portrayed him negatively in the Historiettes--("avec un injuste dédain," writes Antoine Adam). He quotes Furetière's quip that the Moyse sauvé should have been called Moyse noyé... Dorothée Scholl's impression is that "Tallemant s'en prend moins au poète Saint-Amant qu'à l'homme. In a very concise evaluation, she situates the poet's production also in the the general evolution of 17th C. society, as the baroque, pre-Fronde world was giving way to a rising classicism, in parallel with the mythification of Louis XIV and absolutism . Perhaps the Moyse dedication to Boisneau was intended also to favorably impress his younger brother.
The father Pierre Tallemant had been a very prosperous Protestant banker at La Rochelle and Paris. After his death in 1656 Boisneau took over the Tallemant bank, but his own failings in judgement and incapacity to control his associate Ribaud brought about a major bankruptcy which ruined the entire Tallemant family. He died five months before Saint-Amant, who may have had some earlier financial dealings with him .
I too have made a new autograph discovery, which would thus be the 16th known to date: The Municipal Library of Lunel in southern France (Hérault), claims to own a signed copy of the original 1653 Moyse. Held in the prestigious Fonds Médard collection, the volume is said to carry a "Dédicace ms. au duc de Liancourt et signature de l'auteur . Liancourt was an important member of the nobility, a childhood playmate of Louis XIII. He became an influential protector of Théophile de Viau, the close early friend and perhaps mentor of Saint-Amant's. Germain Brice praises him highly :
Ce Seigneur étoit fort considéré, non-seulement à
cause de sa probité, mais encore à cause de la
connoissance qu'il avoit des belles choses, & de
l'amour qu'il témoignoit pour les Beaux Arts 
A contemporary of Saint-Amant, he had bought the Hôtel de Bouillon in 1623, and then had it remodeled and enlarged by Lemercier. Before his reception to the Académie, Saint-Amant dedicated his Suitte des Oeuvres (1631) to the Duc, and became a longtime visitor and "poète attitré" to his Hôtel, 14-18 rue de Seine. Its porte cochère, raised so as to hide the main façade from the street, was not far from the tavern "Au Petit Maure", in the building where Saint-Amant eventually died. (The façade of no. 26 now displays the original enseigne de cabaret, composed of an unusual Moor's head and a plaque honoring the poet).
The Hôtel plan (see p. 15A) reveals reveals its large main garden and dual courtyards surrounded by Doric façades . In 1644 the English diarist and connaisseur John Evelyn visited this "palace" and left an interesting record of his observations: In the smaller garden there were special effects: an illusionistic "well-painted" perspective, which prolonged indefinitely a stream of real water, and a little theater activated by talking, cut-out figures. The commons and apparently the stables were relegated to the basse-cour.
The square vestibule was set at the pivotal right angle, to allow communications in each direction; supposedly the stairway was free-standing--both architectural innovations at this time. Inside a round cabinet was another "neate invention": a sconce where copper plates reflected the light. The rooms of state housed a superbe collection of paintings and drawings by important Renaissance and contemporary masters, and also of "curious achats." Liancourt was "so exceeding civill" that he made his Duchess leave her dressing-room, so that he could show Evelyn's group the art works in it .
Madame, née Jeanne de Schomberg, was known for her solid education, good taste, and also for her piety, which eventually converted her husband to a similar state, from earlier dissipations:
"elle parlait plusieurs langues, possédait tous les
arts d'agrément, cultivait la littérature, et, à des
connoissance fort étendues en histoire, joignait des
notions approfondies en mathématiques" .
Around 1637-40 she had the architect of the Louvre, Jacques Lemercier, reconstruct the family chateau near Chantilly. She herself is credited with designing its elaborate gardens, groves, grottos, fountains, "délicieux points de vue", and canals. Their reputation was worthy of attracting La Fontaine's attention, ranking them with very famous gardens of his time:
Assemblez sans aller si loin
Vaux, Liancourt et leurs naîades
Y joignant, en cas de besoin
Ruel avecque ses cascades .
The chateau became a refuge for Pascal, Arnauld, the Solitaires of Port-Royal, other learned guests, and supposedly included Saint-Amant at some time.
These were important connections for Saint-Amant. Around 1639, his unfinished Moïse "estoit la passion" (Balzac) and "l'idole de l'hostel de L." (Chapelain). The poet had originally intended to dedicate the volume to Madame only, but came to change his mind. Later, after the Duc's conversion (1640) and then attraction to the Jansenist movement, a contemporary report noted that "Lyancourt dit qu'il n'a rien trouvé de beau dans le Moyse de St Amand." Nonetheless, as late as 1656, the poet was visiting the Liancourt residence along with other literary figures, after publishing his opus . This present discovery of the Moyse dedication proves that Saint-Amant continued to seek the approval of the Liancourts and their entourage, after so many years. It adds to Lagny's speculations over their relationship.
Among further additions to Lagny's list of known copies of the first edition, is the Moyse copy at the Biblioteca Nazionale di Roma (7.6.K.41), which does not contain a hoped-for dedication nor a signature. But it is interestingly inscribed "Ex Bibliotheca majori Coll. Rom. Societ. Jesu." In contrast, the Library of Congress copy (PQ1917.S3) bears the designation "Ex bibliotheca R. Toinet". The BNF Catalogue Collectif has permitted us to add even more information to Lagny's list of extant copies of the 1653 Moyse. Corrections to his Bibliographie (pp. 44-45) and new call numbers and sites are:
Arsenal (2 cop.): 4-BL-3257 & 4-BL-3258
Niort: Médiathèque de la communauté, 1060, Fonds
Sainte Geneviève: 4Y 452 INV 624 RES
Sorbonne: Rés RRA 4= 29.
Copies not cited by Lagny:
Bourg-en-Bresse, Ain: Médiathèque Elisabeth et Roger
Vailland: FA 115951, Fonds ancien (XVIIe siècle).
Caen, Calvados: Bibliothèque Municipale, RES B 545,
Roanne, Loire: Médiathèque municipale R 4 128, AN.9.
Paris, BNF: microfilm NUMM-57740.
As we have noted, Jean Lagny has firmly authenticated the handwriting of "l'Albion" as being Saint-Amant's. The neat penmanship of its title page (Stfm III, xix), compared with the other samples of his signed dedications, allows us to agree that all of those are in the same hand. To be noted especially are the characteristic capital letters: the "A" has a downward swirl and sometimes an elegant cap, common in legends of engravings of the time. B and D are formed in one continuing loop; P also extends upward. S is written with a large flourish, as in signature; T extends in a whirl to the left. The penmanship of all the samples [again] is elegant, flowing, and very readable compared to others of the period. This is hardly characteristic of a writer who supposedly had no schooling, "qui n'a jamais passé sous la ferule." These samples of the poet's authenticated handwriting would tend to belie his own assertions of a limited education, and to reveal the mask of dissolution which he hid behind, for an effet, especially in his earlier years. They also establish that he signed his name with a "t," not otherwise .