St Catharine's College : Mémoires Secrets sur les Guerres de Paris

François de la Rochefoucauld, 1613-1680

St Catharine's College

<p style='text-align: justify;'>St Catharine's College MS 17 is a seventeenth-century copy of the <i>Mémoires</i> of François de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac. The <i>Mémoires</i> describe the oscillations of war, and the political intrigues, during <i>La Fronde</i>, the wars that shook Paris during the 1640s and 1650s. Rochefoucauld was a leading figure in the rebellion against Louis XIV and Cardinal Richelieu. His <i>Mémoires</i> contain detailed descriptions of the leading noblemen, their victories, and ultimate defeat.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Pirate Printing and Social Scandal:</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'> St. Catharine's College MS 17 is one of many manuscript copies of Rochefoucauld's <i>Mémoires</i> made in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-centuries. However, before the copying of these manuscripts, parts of Rochefoucauld's <i>Mémoires</i> had already been widely disseminated in a 1662 pirate edition, published illegally in Amsterdam by the Dutch publishing house Elzevir.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The 1662 edition caused widespread social scandal and Rochefoucauld, who had only just been allowed to return to Court after a long exile (due to his wartime engagements and a severe injury) was shunned by Parisian society. His new status as a social pariah was mainly due to the satirical portraits of Madame de Longueville and Cardinal Retz found in the chapter titled 'Guerre de Paris' in the 1662 edition. Rochefoucauld denounced all association with the 1662 edition, but the publication was fiercely popular and several reprints were made in the succeeding years. Despite Rochefoucauld's adamant denouncement of the 1662 edition, the memoirs in the edition were not all of them apocryphal. The edition also contained chapters of what is generally recognized as Rochefoucauld’s <i>Mémoires</i>. Whether the controversial chapter 'Guerre de Paris' is apocryphal or authoritative is still uncertain and remains the subject of contention among historians.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Raising Questions: The Discovery of MS 17:</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'> In his seminal work <i>Œuvres de la Rochefoucauld</i>, published in 1874, Henri Régnier strongly argues against the attribution of ‘Guerre de Paris’ to Rochefoucauld. Régnier’s edition is still the most accurate scholarly guide to the complex textual history of Rochefoucauld's <i>Mémoires</i> - in all its print and manuscript editions - and the main authority on the Gordian knot of Rochefoucauld's authorship. The recent discovery of St. Catharine’s College MS 17, however, raises questions about the textual history of the <i>Mémoires</i> of Rochefoucauld, as it calls for a reassessment of 'Guerre de Paris' and its status.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Anni Haahr Henriksen, St. Catharine's College.</p>

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