Louis de Rouvroy Saint-Simon, duc de

Saint-Simon, Louis de Rouvroy, duc de (lwē də rōvrwäˈ dük də săN-sēmôNˈ) [key], 1675–1755, French writer of memoirs and courtier. He resigned (1702) from the army after his arrogance had involved him in a quarrel with Marshal Luxembourg. Although disliked by Louis XIV, in 1710 he was allowed to establish himself at the court of Versailles, where he associated with Louis, duke of Burgundy, until the duke's death (1712). Between 1715 and 1723 he served ineffectually as a member of the regency council and as a special ambassador to Madrid. After the regency he retired to his estates. Saint-Simon's fame is due entirely to his memoirs, written in the years 1739–51. They are based on his own notes, begun in 1691, and on contemporary journals and memoirs. Despite their uneven quality and their disregard for literary technique and even grammar, the memoirs are a monument of French literature. Saint-Simon's account of the court of Louis XIV is the intensely personal and emotional apology of a grand seigneur who was prevented, by his proud temperament and his limited intelligence, from accepting the rise of the bourgeoisie. He vented his resentment against Louis XIV, whose victory over the great nobles he refused to recognize. Though full of errors, the memoirs are an indispensable historical source and are remarkable for their psychological observation and brilliant sketches. First published in 1788, the memoirs subsequently appeared in several enlarged editions, notably that of Arthur de Boislile and L. Lecestre (41 vol., 1879–1928).

See abridged edition of his memoirs ed. and tr. by L. Norton (3 vol., 1968–72).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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