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For SEPTEMBER, 1790.
ART. 1. The History of France from the first Establishment of that Monarchy to the prefent Revolution. In Three Volumes. 8vo. 1458 pages. Price 18s. in boards. Kearfley. 1790. BEFORE the appearance of this publication a confiderable link was wanting, to general readers, and especially to young perfons, in the great chain of history. In the English language there was no hiftory of France which a modern reader could perufe with fatisfaction. The public are therefore certainly obliged to the anonymous author of this production, for affording them information which was not eafy to be obtained by the majority of readers; and the publication is peculiarly feafonable at this period, when the affairs of France are so much the fubject of general converfation.
The first pages of this hiftory are occupied by a brief, but perfpicuous detail of the origin and enterprises of the Franks, previous to the reign of Clovis. The conquefts of that monarch, who was originally a petty chief of a tribe of Franks, and his converfion to christianity are next recounted. By the united efforts of valour and policy, Clovis, it is well known, poffeffed himself by degrees of the whole of the northern part of Gaul, which had been divided among the Vifigoths, Alemanni, and other barbarian invaders. The Vifigoths, with Alaric at their head, were unable to withstand the force and ability of the victorious Frank, but his progrefs was stopped by Theodoric, king of the Aftrogoths. Clovis, however, in thefe wars, added Aquitain, from the Pyrenees to the Loire, to his former acquifitions. His career was crowned by the honour of being appointed conful of Rome; in the last year of his reign he reformed and publifhed the famous Salic laws; and in 511 he died at Paris, in the 45th year of his age, and 30th of his reign. The character of Clovis is worthy of an extract: VOL. I. p. 16.
VOL. VIII. N° I.
Among his contemporaries, the valour and victories of Clovis certainly allowed him to claim the foremost rank; but his valour was stained with cruelty, and his victories obfcured by injustice. In the invafion of the Burgundians and Vifigoths, the moit partial hiftorians have defcribed him as the aggreffor; and though in the battle of Tolbiac his fword was drawn against the Alemanni in the defence of his ally and kinfman Sigebert, yet he foon after hefitated not to fecure his throne by the death of that very ally in whofe caufe he had triumphed. His ruling paffion was to render himself abfolute monarch of all Gaul; and he may be confidered as more fortunate in the execution of his defigns than jultifiable in the means he employed. In private life, after his converfion to christianity, he was chafte and temperate; nor does it appear that the husband of Clotilda ever violated the purity of the marriage-bed.'
On the death of Clovis, the kingdom was divided among his fons, who foon after made a conqueft of Burgundy, and overwhelmed the kingdom of the Vifigoths. For a series of years France continued divided into feveral diftinct ftates; and the government of the Merovingian princes was caft into fhade by the growing authority of their principal fervants, the mayors of the palaces. Among thefe we difcover the Carlovingian race rifing gradully into power, under the adminiftration of Pepin; and under that of his natural fon Charles Martel, it grew to fuch an enormous height, that he was enabled, without fheltering himfelf under a fhadow of royalty, to affume to himself the whole power of the Franks. The fon of Charles, Pepin the Short, by his valour, conduct, and his artful negociations with the court of Rome, added to his father's power, the title of king; and Childeric, the laft of the Merovingian race, was fhaved, and immured for life in a monaftery.-The acceffion of Charlemagne to the imperial throne is next related with brevity and fpirit. The feeble and turbulent reign of Lewis the Meck, or gentle, concludes the fecond chapter.
A new divifion of the government took place on the death of Lewis the Meek, and the empire of Germany was feparated from the kingdom of France. The remainder of this chapter contains the feeble reigns of the Carlovingian race, and among the moft remarkable facts during this period, we difcern the rife and establishment of the dukes of Normandy.-The family of Charlemagne was extinguished in the perfon of Lewis the yth, and the crown was transferred to the famous Hugh Capet.
The eight following chapters are occupied by the actions of the immediate fucceffors of Hugh Capet; and the 12th opens with the acceffion of the family of Valois. The wars which enfued between this family, and our Edward III, are well known to most of the readers of English hiftory, and are detailed in the two fucceeding chapters. In the 15th, the state of France, previous to the invafion of Henry v. of England,
is defcribed with fome degree of political difcrimination. The 3 origin of that fatal phrenzy in Charles VI, which was the fource of fo much evil to France, is deferving of attention: p. 414.
The Sieur de Craon, a profligate nobleman, had been entrufted by the court of France with a confiderable fum of money for the fupport of the duke of Anjou, reduced to extreme diftrefs by his Italian expedition. He had betrayed the confidence which had been thus repofed in him; and diffipated the money in his li centious pleasures at Venice. By the credit of the duke of Orleans, the brother of the king, he obtained his pardon, and returned to court, to abufe the clemency of his fovereign by an act of more atrocious treachery. To gratify his private refentment, he attempted to affaffinate the conftable, Oliver Cliffon, whom he fufpected of having promoted his difgrace. The veteran hero was attacked as he returned from the hotel of St. Pol, by twenty ruffians; and although he defended himfelf with his sword with his wonted intrepidity, he at length fell, from the lofs of blood and the number of his wounds. tion triumphed over the bloody malice of his affailants, while The goodness of his conftituCraon fled from the vengeance of his incenfed fovereign to the protection of the duke of Brittany.
Charles demanded the criminal; and on the refufal of the duke, prepared to compel him, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the dukes of Burgundy and Berri, at the head of a numerous army. Accompanied by thefe princes, he had fearce arrived at Mans before he was feized with a flow fever; but his impatience to punit the crime of Craon, and the contempt of the duke of Brittany, induced him to refift the advice of his phyficians, and to continue his march. As he paffed through a foreft between Mans and La Fleche, in the heat of the day, the bridle of his horfe was fuddenly feized by a man in wretched apparel, black and hideous; who exclaimed, My king, where are you going? you are betrayed!' and then inftantly difappeared. moment, a page who carried the king's lance, and who, under At that the preffure of fatigue had fallen atleep, let fall the lance on a helmet which another page carried before him. This noife, with the fudden appearance and exclamation of the man, concurred to produce an immediate and fatal effect on the king's imagination. He drew his fword, and ftruck furioufly on every fide; three perfons, befides the page who dropped the lance, were the victims of his phrenzy; at length he was difarmed and fecured. The violence of the effort had exhaufted his ftrength; and he was conveyed, fenfelefs and motionlefs, to Mans.
This account, ftrange and improbable, is yet fupported by the united teftimonies of contemporary hiftorians. Probably the mind of the king, oppreffed by indifpofition, prefented to his fancy the ideal figure, the fource of his terror; probably the duke of Burgundy ufed this artifice to fright him from an expedition, from which he had endeavoured ineffectually to diffuade. But whatever was the cause of Charles's delirium, the confequences were melancholy. diately abandoned; the king was re-conducted to Paris; and exThe invasion of Brittany was imme
preffed, on the recovery of his fenfes, his horror at the blood which had been thus unknowingly fpilt.
During the three days that his delirium had lafted, the grief of his people proclaimed the blamelefs tenor of admiftration: The intelligence of his recovery was welcomed by marks of unfeigned and unbounded tranfport; but it was foon difcovered that he no longer poffeffed that clear comprehenfion and ftrength of judgment, which had formerly characterized him. The doubtful ftate of his intellects rendered it neceffary that the royal power fhould be vested in more able hands; and the competition for the regency brought forward two characters which hitherto had been concealed from public obfervation. Ifabella, the confort of the unfortunate monarch, has already been celebrated for her uncommon beauty and infinuating addrefs: but thefe qualities were alloyed by a mind violent, vindictive, and intriguing; by a heart infenfible to the natural affections of a parent, but open to flattery, and fufceptible of the impreffion of every lawlefs paffion. The duke of Orleans, the brother of the king, had but juft entered his twentieth year; his perfon was graceful, his features animated, and he was by nature and education formed to fucceed in gallantry; his early marriage with Valentina, the daughter of the duke of Milan, a princefs of extraordinary charms and accomplishments, did not prevent him from engaging in a variety of licentious amours; and his intimacy with his royal fifter-in-law was abhorred as criminal and incestuous. Profufe and prodigal, his hopes were inflamed by the partiality of the queen; and he openly afpired to the regency; but the flates regarded him with prudent diftruft and conferred the adminiftration of affairs on the imore mature years of his uncle, the duke of Burgundy.'
The account of the Maid of Orleans is fhort and ftriking: P. 469.
While he (Charles the Dauphin) anxiously and hourly expected the fatal intelligence that Orleans had furrendered, his. attention was engaged by the appearance of a village girl, destined to prop his falling fortunes, and reflore to him the dominions of his ancestors. In the village of Domremi, near Vaucouleurs, on the borders of Lorraine, at a fmall inn, refided a female fervant called Joan d'Are; the had been accustomed to ride the horses of her master's guests to water; her employment and converfation with the company whom the attended, had given her a degree of boldness above her fex; and the listened with pleasure to the martial atchievements, the conftant topics of converfation in a warlike age. The calamities of her country, and the diftrefs of her fovereign, were the objects of her daily thoughts and nightly dreams. She was foon inflamed with the defire of aveng. ing on the English the mifery of France; and an ignorant mind might poffibly mistake the impulfe of her paffions for heavenly infpirations. She procured admiffion to Baudrecourt, the governor of Vaucouleurs; fhe declared to him that he had been exhorted by frequent vifions and by diftinét voices, to atchieve the deliverance of her country; and the governor either equally credulous himself, or fufficiently penetrating to forefce the effect fuch an enthusiast might have on the minds of the vulgar, granted